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Caretaker, Family Life, Grief, Hope

December 15, 2023

Grief through the Holidays

Each year I find myself brimming with anticipation of the Holidays. Maybe it’s the little girl that still resides inside or the beauty that the month of December can hold. We were only a few hours into Thanksgiving day this year when I realized that I was not ok. Not only did I not have newborn kittens this year (story for another day,) but there was an undeniable void. Learning that even with the excitement of the holidays comes grief with who isn’t at our table anymore. The real and the proverbial table that is our life. As I age I see November/December as an annual measure of time, a marker of sorts that shows who may or may not be with us that year. I am learning to just “be” during the Holidays. Easier said than done.

Grief has and will always be a part of my story. My husband and I had both lost parents before we entered our 40s and Christmas can bring with it lots of times where they are missed deeply. Memories that hide under the surface. One minute you are by the punch bowl and the next you are in a corner sobbing. The definition of grief is a natural emotional reaction to the loss of someone or something important. It’s an individual experience that affects every person differently and may be expressed in a variety of ways. Losing many people that I love deeply has caused sometimes debilitating grief and even when I think I have it figured out, something triggers and I am back to a puddle on the ground. Learning that even though the years lessen the blow, it is always there. Under the surface…

Not only have physical people left our table, but relationships have also changed. Once close friends are no longer. As I reflect on this, it seems to be a normal part of aging. When I look at our parent’s generation there are very few people who have friendships that last a lifetime. Why is this? Feel this may also be a post for another day. Friendships are something that I cherish deeply and I am committed to working to have some of these friendships last the test of time.

Another thing that I grieve during the Holidays are traditions that are no longer. My childhood was filled with some of the most magical Christmas memories. Parties filled with lots of amazing food presents for days, and people from all over gathered. My Nana knew how to throw incredible events. Once age started to wreak my grandparent’s sweet bodies, the traditions changed. Moved to different locations and then became no longer. It is easy to reminisce on those days and want to relive parts of them. I wouldn’t want to be the girl I was back then, but I miss the magic of those childhood memories. The pure joy of the Holiday season.

7 tips for managing grief through the holiday

Therapy – lots of it! In all seriousness, mental health is super important. Seeing a therapist this year has helped me tremendously.

Gratitude- There is always something to be thankful for. Even if it is just living in the present day. Each day I find three things to be grateful for when I am sad or trying to feel sorry for myself.

Self care- This has been key for me the past few years. I have a weekly goal of making sure I am doing something to fill up my cup. A massage, lunch with a friend, a nap, spending time with my animals, etc. In order for me to spill out love to others, I have to make sure I am filling my own cup.

Creativity- 2023 has been a year in which I have found how beneficial the arts are. Confidently I can say that everyone has an artist inside of them. Art can help people express themselves, even when they don’t know how. Even something as simple as a coloring book, journaling, or taking a local art class has been helpful.

Low Expectations- Reminding myself every year will not be the same. Trying to make every year “perfect” or holding fast to traditions that may not work in this season will only lead to overwhelm and burnout. Also, low expectations of others. Always. People are people and no one is perfect.

Community/Family- Sometimes I find myself grieving the amount of physical family we have, but know that we have an exceptional group of friends that have become family. Love them as well as you are able. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Faith- My relationship with God is by far the thing that has moved me forward through some extremely hard times. Waking up each day and spending time in His word and having the reminder that I am loved, worthy, and seen, comforts my sometimes weary heart. Please send me a message if you would like to know more. God loves you very much.

This holiday season we have a choice. To look back at the things that were and wish to be there or to move forward and find joy in the moment we have been given. In this world, grief is sadly unavoidable and nothing will ever stay the same. What if this holiday season we let ourselves have realistic expectations and let new traditions and memories happen organically? As the curator of Christmas in our family, I want to create the same joy for our family that I had each Christmas. Yet also teach them that each year may be a bit different, but they are loved and know that the reason for this season is Jesus.

Praying for each of you as the year comes to a close. Give yourself and others grace, my friends. You have no idea what they may be going through. Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

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