Giving in to Grief: Going “There”

It’s OK to be sad around the holidays.

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It must be the holidays. The music has changed in all the stores to the classic holiday tunes, the decorations have come out of the attic, and Starbucks has its holiday lattes back! 

We are all supposed to be happy and grateful, full of holiday spirit and lots of ho, ho, hos. When we don’t feel the characteristic holiday happiness, we wonder what’s wrong with us, and we feel even bluer for our isolation. 

Make no mistake: Holidays are hard, especially if you’re missing someone special.

When I unpack my Christmas tree ornaments, I know I will come across ornaments that memorialize furry family members that are no longer with us. 

There will be Rosy the red Somali, who liked to chew on tissue paper and ribbons (outlawed shortly after this habit emerged; no linear foreign bodies here!).  There will be Michael, the long-haired domestic short hair who loved to sit under the tree in a trance, who only blessed us for that one year. 

Someday, the pets who watched me put up decorations yesterday, including Joy the Cavalier, who likes to chew the garland, and Georgia No-Eyes, who doesn’t get to gaze upon the beautiful lights, will be gone too, and I’ll remember them with fondness and a few tears.

Grief is a sneaky thing. It creeps up on you and BAM, you’re down and out in sobs. 

Alan Wolfelt, a grief expert, calls these “grief bursts,” and that name suits them well. They seem to burst out of nowhere. 

My message today, and his message too, is just go with it, move toward the pain of loss, immerse yourself in memories and use as many tissues as you need to honor the memory of whoever you are missing this holiday.  You see, even though you may feel tired after a good cry, ignoring your emotions, holding them back, can lead to pronounced exhaustion and depression. 

We are not meant to hold our emotions in. They need to spill out and over into our lives, to help us move through the loss.

In my past, the biggest losses I have experienced have been my pets.  Up until a month ago, I had never lost a person who was really close to me. I’ve been fortunate in my nearly 50 years. 

But now, my mother is gone.  I move into the holidays on tip-toes. Thanksgiving wasn’t too bad, as I have lived away from my folks for some years now, and it had been a long while since I was home for Thanksgiving. 

But Christmas is going to be a whole different thing. 

We made a point to spend the last several Christmases with Mom, always wondering if it would be the last.  I can’t believe last year was the last. 

But just like I’ve done since I was a little kid, when I feel that grief burst coming on, I’ll put on some sad music, bring up my treasured memories (which used to be of my furry family), and cry until it passes. 

I will “go there” because I am lost in those moments otherwise

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