The holidays can be difficult for someone who has lost a loved one and can even magnify any loss. For some, the holidays are the hardest part of any grieving process. We tend to miss our loved ones more than usual. How can we even celebrate togetherness when there are no longer sitting at our dinner table? The sadness may deepen, we tend to isolate and hide our pain.
In this episode we’ll discuss grief and the holidays with local LPC-S, Gerardo Rosas. Gerardo specializes in grief and loss and he is CEO of Associated Behavioral Trauma Specialties.
Throughout this episode we talk about what is grief and discuss its natural process. We learn how there’s no right path to grief and how we can cope with our valid emotions during this holiday season.
WHAT IS GRIEF?
The first time I was introduced to the word “grief”, I was 15 years old and I had recently lost my beloved “Abue,” my grandmother. I had heard it before, but I was too young comprehend what it truly meant and what I was “supposed” to feel.
In my conversation with Gerardo, we discussed the meaning of grief. According to Gerardo, grief is a response to a loss-- when we lose a loved one or something special to our hearts. Now, when I think about the word “response” that can mean that there are different responses to grief and all responses are natural.
As a young teenager trying to navigate grief, I thought that there was a linear process I had to follow. First, I had to experience denial, then anger, after anger came depression or sadness and finally acceptance. I had a plan and thought, “after I complete all my steps, I’ll be fine.”
More than 10 years later, I’ve learned that grief and healing are not linear journeys and that’s okay. Grief can be a response of love.
Gerardo mentioned that in order for us to comprehend our grief and lean towards our emotions, we need to understand how we experienced our loss. In the case of August 3rd, the loss can be traumatic, no one anticipated the tragedy. Understanding your loss can be the first step to healing.
GRIEF DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON
After my loss, I found the holidays difficult. I looked around me and everyone was happy, joyful and looking forward to all the festivities. I felt isolated and alone. The holiday season made me miss my Abue more than usual and I couldn’t understand why or at least couldn’t find the answers I was looking for.
The holidays are attached to many family traditions, traditions that maybe we don’t even realize. For me it was waking up every January 1st and watching the New Year’s Parade with my Abue. We never agreed that it was our tradition, but every year we had the same ritual—wake up, stay in our pajamas and watch the beautiful floats through our TV screen.
After you lose a loved one those traditions can change and modify how we spend our holidays. But through my conversation with Gerardo, I’ve learned we can create new ways to acknowledge and celebrate special days. I continue to watch the parade but now, I invite my sister—for us it’s our little way of honoring and remembering our Abue.
During this season it is important to know that it is natural to feel sad and/or angry. You may feel bitter that others seem to be enjoying themselves when you are having a difficult time. Try not to fight the feelings but rather be aware they are likely connected to your losses and may not be aimed at anyone in particular. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to handle the holidays in grief. You have to decide what is right for you and do it.
COPING WITH GRIEF
Hiding our grief and pain is natural practice we tend to do. However, Gerardo encourages us to talk about our losses with someone who will listen and understand. Most people have a need to talk about their losses. This in normal and may continue beyond the upcoming days.
You can also do things that might help you with overwhelming emotions-- exercise, take walks, bake, or write in a journal. Practice activities that can bring you a joy and peace.
We want to remind you that the FRC is here to provide support and guidance. It’s never too late to ask for help. It is okay if we don’t feel strong all the time, but we can feel united.
Press play and take a listen to learn more.