Loss. It’s a word we all know in one form or another. Loss of a loved one, loss of income, loss of stability, loss of relationships, loss of connection with self, loss of control… It’s a small word, just 4 letters, yet its impact is disorienting. And with loss comes grief.
During the holidays, loss and grief can be overwhelming. Whether you are or are not spiritual, holidays are the times we celebrate the joys of our family and friends.
When the rest of the world is in the throws of holiday bliss, for those dealing with loss and grief, all the “shoulds” are at the forefront everywhere you look.
You “should be happy”, after all, it’s the holidays.
You “should be grateful” for all you “do” have.
You “should be preparing” for the festivities with food and gifts for those in your life. You “should, should, should.”
Everywhere are reminders - the lights, the music, the gifts, the food, and the holiday get-togethers.
But… How do you appreciate the festivities and the very meaning of your celebration when you are in the midst of an emotional rollercoaster?
This holiday season, our family was granted entry into this vastly large club of experiencing loss. Our loss was a loss of life. Just five days ago we lost our first expected and very much already loved grandchild. The baby had anencephaly, a rare genetic birth defect causing the baby’s brain and skull not to fully develop in which loss of life is inevitable. Shock and devastation are just small words in comparison to the emotions of those words we are experiencing.
I certainly wasn’t sure how we would get through this Christmas. As a Christian, my first instinct was prayer and it did give me some peace. What I didn’t know, were my “shoulds” to help our daughter through this. As a parent, I wanted to take control “for her” and minimize her pain.
How do you celebrate the holidays when the wind has been knocked out of you? How do you “fake it” through when the last thing you feel like doing is celebrating?
What I learned is there is no right way to get through difficult times - especially during the holidays when there is an expectation to be merry and bright. What I learned is having empathy and taking cues from the person or persons that a loss has impacted first, and be sensitive to what they are going through.
There is no “safe” road to take when someone is on a path to healing, and it is not your job or theirs to make it better for others to not feel uncomfortable. When dealing with loss and grief, for whatever reason, you aren’t required to hold back and protect others from knowing your hurt. Perhaps, simply being honest and letting others know that you aren’t in the space to celebrate fully isn’t going to disrespect those who are.
What it will do is offer them insight on why you want to be low key during this holiday and hopefully, they will be sensitive enough to understand, not ask a lot of questions or offer solutions. But, if they do, tell them you appreciate their concerns and you are doing the best you can today. Allow yourself permission to feel what you are feeling. After all “when something sucks… it just sucks and the time of the year has no bearing on that.”
We took our cues from our brave and incredibly strong daughter who told us what she needed when she needed it. It was often difficult for us not to “do” for her or “comfort her”, but that was our needs - not hers. She has inspired me in more ways than I can ever tell her and she is dealing with her loss and her grief in the way that is best for her emotional state. December 20, 2019 she lost her most precious gift and still had the strength to share her thoughts with others.
Just 4 days after her angel baby crossed over to be with loved ones in Heaven, she did come to be with family at our Christmas Eve get-together as being with family was part of her healing process. I am not so sure I could have been that strong if I were walking her path.
It is my deepest hope, if you are someone who knows loss or knows of someone dealing with loss, you will find it in your hearts to brave an empathetic walk to help the journey of healing take on its own form.
Be kind, love each other deeply, hold no judgment for what may or may not happen that is “normal” over the days or weeks during this wonderful holiday season.
I wish you all, as a close relative said: “This year we will just say “Christmas” and keep the “Merry” for another time.