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Prep for the Holidays: Holidays and grief – celebrating when it doesn’t feel like there’s much to celebrate – By Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S

Hello Reader. Just because the holidays are here doesn’t mean your emotions will feel like celebrating. I’ve gone through holidays right after a loss or when I’ve joined a dear loved one in their hurt, pain, or depression.

 

So how do you celebrate when you don’t feel like celebrating?

Or how do you join someone who doesn’t feel like celebrating but does want to “enjoy” the holidays?

 (Pt 2 of 3 : Part 1- 7 things to do today to rock the holidays, Part 2: Holidays and grief – celebrating when it doesn’t feel like much to celebrate, Part 3: Having that hard holiday conversation – at home, at work, or on the way)

 

Here are a few tips and suggestions:

 

Recognize we all hurt and holidays can bring additional hurt

Everyone experiences grief and loss as it is part of the human condition.  We all choose how to deal with the pain and some ways to deal are healthy, therefore enhancing relationships while some are not healthy, therefore causing relationships to disintegrate.

Realize that it’s awkward and also helpful when we join others while in grief, loss or pain. We don’t want to think about death, the culture we grew up in taught us some things about grief and mourning, and we often don’t take sufficient time to deal with the maddening roller coaster that is grieving.

  • Listen to your friends story without sharing yours right away
  • Be willing to share your story when they want to hear
  • Remember to cry together and celebrate together too
  • If you notice someone hurting over the holidays, consider engaging with them so truly offer care, comfort, and grace. Don’t let someone who is hurting be alone too much, or use substances or people to numb the pain.

 

 

Hurt comes from multiple sources and can be surprising

Holidays bring up our pasts and our future hopes into your current present experiences. This can cause internal pain that then is experienced as grief, loss, or mourning. Experiences like loosing a loved one, not being in the life stage you wish you were, financial losses, health changes, past relational pain, missing loved ones who are far away, feeling pain for others losses.

 

Know the difference between grief, loss, and mourning.

Grief is the recognition you’ve lost someone you love. Loss is the experience of no longer having something or someone you include in your life. Mourning is the public expression of grief and different cultures mourn differently.

 

Acknowledge the whole experience: We experience grief and loss as whole people in relationships: physically, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. Every part of us is impacted. This experience is in the context of relationships with God and others. In relationships we communicate mostly in an emotional manner, in fact only 20% of our communication is actually intellectual. Therefore grieving includes valuing our emotionality just as God repects and values how He created us.

  • Consider how to remember the loss in ways that acknowledge the pain but include the loss in the celebration. If the loss was a loved one, include their favorite way to celebrate (that is health), set a place at the table, tell a story of the loved one, etc.
  • Consider how to keep your mind, body, and spirit healthy through the holidays and ask others to help you with this goal.

 

Learn to offer comfort and grace: Offering comfort may sound like a counselor term but it’s more of a sociological term that is also found in multiple sources. You probably offer comfort and don’t realize it when you say things like, “yeah I’ve felt that too.”, or “I’m sorry that does stink.” Or similar phrases. Comfort affirms the hurt that is shared with another heart felt statement. Grace is the behavioral expression we provide when we give people not just space but the space to feel and to still be accepted and loved.

Grief can make us feel crazy and behave through our false selves, and it can make us appear “prickly” or “needy”

Grace for the season—allow for time and truth, talk and share appropriately, expect the roller-coaster or the ball-of-grief

 

Be specific and Be present: It’s easy to say things like, “I’m here when you need me.” Or “Call whenever you need something.” but these things really aren’t helpful for those who are hurting. Be specific about what you can actually do. Be present with those who are hurting because your presence really is powerfully helpful.

When caring for someone in pain these are some things others have said were helpful for them. Consider putting these on your holiday help list for others to help you or suggest them for someone you know who might be helped:

  • Please let me talk;
  • Ask me about him/her;
  • Hold me or sit with me and let me cry;
  • Don’t be afraid of my silences;
  • Give me grace;
  • Offer to help with specific tasks, don’t just offer to help “with anything”;
  • Keep in touch;
  • On special days, offer to remember with me;
  • Tell me when you are available

 

 

Expand the support: Help yourself or those who are hurting by increasing other forms of support. If visuals help, draw circles and lines that connect from the one who needs the support to those who are ready and willing to offer support.- I call this a Sociagram or a Support Circle. Include other items that could be considered “support” like healthy activities, songs to play, movies to watch, etc. all things that could be put on a “Support or Strength Menu” that is a list of things to choose to help when the hurt comes on.

 

Keep the Hope-Fire Burning: Hope can be easily lost during the holiday shuffle, stress, and grief of losses or things not yet. Remember to keep yourself in the position with God and others to maintain the fire of hope within. Hope is a substance that is tangible and can be held with words, thoughts, tone of voice, heart-felt emotion, dreams, and spoken expectations. Hope is also healing to us and others. Hope can be stoked into flame with proper health and soul care – so mind those cookies and comfort food as they typically smother hope rather than stoke it – and plan for good nutrition, proper exercise, and include things in your day that teach your soul to hope. Check in here in two weeks for another blog on Hope-Fires – keeping hope glowing over the holidays.

 

There you have it. A few tips and suggestions to help you or someone you care for to celebrate when there is hurt, grief, or loss.

 

Which one will you include today?

Who can you invite into this with you for either support, enjoyment, or accountability?

Is there someone you care for that could use this blog?

 

Connect with me and let me know how it goes!

Tune in next week for Part 3.

Pt 1 of 3 :

Part 1- 7 things to do today to rock the holidays

Part 2: Holidays and grief – celebrating when it doesn’t feel like much to celebrate

Part 3: Having that hard holiday conversation – at home, at work, or on the way

 

 

Warmly,

Liz

 

Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S is counselor, coach and creative who is passionate about people. She directs a counseling center in Austin, Texas and with husband David Lawrence co-leads the non-profit Renue.Me whose mission is to invest in the dreams of leaders in underprivileged communities around the world. Connect with her at www.lizlawrencelpc.com  or www.renue.me

 

Photo Credits:

Photo from Pexels.com, Graphic on Canva

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