“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”…unless you are experiencing the absence of a loved one this Christmas. Grief and loneliness come in waves and sometimes these feelings are felt more intense than other times, which can make the holiday season a difficult time. This post is written to those who are lonely and grieving this holiday season.
Earlier this year, I read a moving post on a popular blog. You may have heard of Emily Meyers, the author of the blog “The Freckled Fox.” She is young mother of five who recently lost her husband to cancer and was left to care for their children on her own. She wrote beautifully about grief, and I was reflecting on her blog post while thinking of how the holidays mean something different to everyone. Some look toward the holidays with excitement, while others look toward this time of year with anxiety and trepidation.
Whether holidays seem to highlight your singleness, or highlight the absence of a loved one, this time of year can be difficult. Many of my clients find themselves in a slump around the Christmas season, and struggle to find something to celebrate. I have been there and my heart aches for those who are grieving this year. In our society, we have the tendency to believe that we have to get over things, to move on and forget. We tell others, “It gets easier with time,” and to find something else to replace the void in their lives after loss. While there is some truth in that advice, I want to echo the words of Emily Meyers, from her blog, “The Freckled Fox”:
“There is no timeline for grief, so don’t you ever ever let anyone tell you there is….There are no rules to grief. YOU make the decisions about how you handle your grief, about how and when you move forward, because you are the only one who feels the way you do, who has experienced exactly what you have, and who has to keep on living long after everyone else has forgotten. You don’t base your feelings and choices about how others think you should feel or choose. You absolutely can’t.”
Sometimes people unknowingly assume that holidays and birth- and death-days are the anniversaries that trigger grief, but it is not that simple. There are milestones and memories attached to everyday things like music, food, locations, and smells that might remind an individual of their lost loved one. Or for those who may be spending the holidays alone, simply seeing couples holding hands in public, sitting together in a theater or watching a Hallmark movie can be a searing reminder of his/her solitude. As The Freckled Fox said, “Everything around me is full of memories and moments that hurt.”
Grief is ongoing, it never stops. It never goes away. And that is okay. We need to stop waiting for our own grief to pass. Embrace your situation this Christmas season. Find a way to honor or celebrate the memories you do have, create new traditions, do something kind for others, ask for help, and surround yourself with people you care about. Do not push grief away or ignore it; instead, let it have a healthy place in your life. Stop waiting for the storm of your grief to pass… learn to dance in the rain.
If you are lonely this holiday season, I invite you to be brave and go out of your comfort zone. Seek company with close friends and family members. Engage in meaningful conversation. Initiate activities. Communicate your feelings to someone you can trust. Be vulnerable, open up, and let people in. Practice self-care; you will be amazed how much that can help improve your feelings of self-worth and self-esteem! Limit and possibly avoid social media; seeing photos of groups or couples when you feel lonely often only increases feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Marjorie Hinckley once said, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We never know who around us is dealing with loss or grief–or any other difficulty in life. This Christmas season is a great time to give your pain an outlet by relating to, empathizing with, and serving others who are also suffering. Tune in next week for my post on the power of serving others–especially during this holiday season. If you or someone you know is finding it difficult to bear their grief at this time of year, please contact me today or schedule a session to receive guidance on how to build a healthy relationship with grief and loneliness.
(Click here if you are interested in reading The Freckled Fox’s post entitled, “Learning to Dance in the Rain”.)
Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.
- Cluff Counseling: “Self-care: Is it Selfish?”
- Cluff Counseling: “Self-Esteem & Self-Worth: Two essential Components of the Self”
- Cluff Counseling: “The Power Behind Vulnerability”
- The Freckled Fox: ”Learning to Dance in the Rain”
- PscyhCentral: “Coping with Loneliness During the Holidays”
- Psychology Today: “How to Deal with Grief During the Holidays”