Grief and Loss during the Holidays

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Most often in society, losing a loved one is a topic that people tend to respectfully bypass because it’s uncomfortable. Grief can be misunderstood if it’s uncharted territory for those who haven’t experienced losing a loved one and immensely difficult for those who have. While no one would want anyone else to experience loss, it’s a confusing path to navigate when others can’t fully understand.

Another compounding factor with grief is the holiday season and all the happiness it brings. From Thanksgiving to New Years highlighting Christmas in between, those are special, repetitive celebrations in people’s lives where finding full joy can be a struggle. In a world surrounded by smiles and laughter during those seasons, they are fighting their hardest to hold onto the little hope they have. An additional layer unfolds when they move forward in the grieving process, where they begin to experience joy coinciding with pain. That’s the tricky part. People think, “Am I allowed to feel both contradicting feelings at once? Do I deserve to be happy during the holidays?” The answer is YES! Despite the suffering, everyone deserves to have some good in their life, even if it’s just an ounce of happiness. Think about the person who has passed on; would they want you to be gloomy 24/7? Most likely not. They loved you enough to know you absolutely deserve to move forward with happiness in life, all the while of missing that special someone.

As other people’s lives moved forward and the grieving individual is stuck in a tough emotional state, it’s comforting to know they haven’t been forgotten. For those who are unsure of how to support someone during this time, I’d like to shed some insight and ideas. From personal experience, I found that it’s easier to have someone ask me what I want rather than imposing what they believe may be helpful. While flowers, memorable mementos, food, and cards come with good intentions, that may not be what everyone wants during a period of grief. However, those are wonderful ideas and can mean more than you know! What I found as well is when others would surprise me with something I wasn’t expecting. While I may have shed a few tears, it was nice to know others were thinking of me during this time, even if it had been months or a year since the loss occurred. Other ideas aside from gifts or food is a simple, “I’m here if you need anything” or “I’m thinking of you today”. Those are sometimes the best gifts grieving individuals can receive; a simple acknowledgement. Lastly-hugs, sitting in silence, or having someone make you laugh can often be helpful too.

To those who are struggling during the holidays, consider this my hug to you. Do your best to find a glimmer of happiness while honoring the person you so deeply miss. To those who hesitate to say something to a friend or family member, I encourage you to not think twice. I promise your words or actions may just be what that person needs.

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” -Jamie Anderson

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Natalie is a born and raised Texan originally from Kerrville, Texas who is a hill country girl at heart. She graduated from Texas Woman's University with her master's in Counseling and is in private practice at Waco Psychological Associates as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Natalie married a Baylor bear and was blessed with a sweet little girl in June of 2016 and a son in heaven in March of 2018. We love calling Waco, home! In her spare time, she enjoys the outdoors, good music, anything sport-related (former soccer player here), and making memories with family and friends. Feel free to follow her on Instagram @natpaigejones