Let’s face it: holidays are harder to get through when you’re dealing with loss. A friend or family member passed away that year and now the holidays aren’t the same without them. You broke up with a significant other. This loss or losses can leave a hole in our hearts, but it is important that we face them.
Now as a disclaimer, I am no expert by the books, but I have experienced some of these events. If this post is coming to you at a hard time, I am most definitely sorry. I won’t try to match the pain that I have felt in the past to the pain that you are experiencing now.
But I am here to say that you are not alone.
I will say, however, that I have been through a thing or two. Someday, when I am ready, I will tell you what has happened in my life that has lead me to be able to write this post. But right now, let’s leave it at the simple fact that life isn’t fair sometimes.
Now, a little bit of information for your brain spaces; I will be referencing the 5 stages of grief in this post. Your five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Denial can also be called shock. It is usually your brain’s first response to a loss. Sometimes you will meet someone who just lost someone in their life, and they aren’t crying or they don’t look sad. These are the people who don’t 100% realize what has happened to them, and that’s okay. But there is an oncoming storm.
Anger is just how it sounds. You are angry that this person was taken from you. Sometimes, to those around you, it seems irrational. But the pain inside manifests to anger on the outside. You can get angry at God for taking someone away from you. I’ve even gotten angry at picturesque-looking families around me. They don’t even know the travesty that has happened and they are going about their day like normal people. How could they?
Bargaining is kind of an odd stage. This is more of the time that the “what if’s” roll around in your brain. What if I had done this instead of that; what if they had been here instead of there? Everyone has had these “what if” thoughts. But all those what if’s won’t bring back the person you have lost.Which leads to…
Depression is a big one. Many times, this is the longest stage that people will go through, especially for those with preexisting depression. Your body and mind are dealing with not having someone anymore. There is a gap in your life that was once filled by that person and now it is empty. Getting out of depression takes time and it’s not something that you can force. Doing what you can to keep living and not holing up for days on end does definitely help.
And then we reach acceptance, which you will find in the last point of this post. This surrounds the idea of a “new normal” and what it will take to reach the point of “okay” again.
And as a note, these stages are not 100% linear, and not everyone will experience all of them. For example, it’s not guaranteed that a grieving person will ever reach acceptance.
Embrace the fact that things are not going to be normal right now.
Okay, this sounds basic. This step, however, is essential to people who are in the denial stage of grief. When you are in denial, or shock, over an event, the holidays will be a rude wake up call. All of a sudden, that person isn’t there. You didn’t have to buy presents for that person. Everything feels weird and off.
Don’t shut these thoughts out.
Let your mind go through the motions and have that realization that things aren’t going to be normal. If you do this, progressing through the stages won’t feel like fighting against a tide.
When I had my first Christmas without some of my loved ones, things were rough. I was reminded of the little things of the people I had lost. The ornaments with laser engraved names, their favorite Christmas songs, old traditions that involved them and holiday memories flooded my brain the entire season.
And it broke my heart. I never said this was going to be easy.
But as I was able to soak in what had happened, things got a little easier. My mantra has been “Holidays won’t be the same without them, but we will learn to cope without them.” And if you allow yourself to fully realize what is happening, you will.
Surround yourself with people who love you as much as you can.
After losing someone, either a significant other or someone who passed away, it’s a really good idea to surround yourself with good people. If they lost someone close to them too, they’re hurting as well.
When I had family members who passed away, my family was still there, banded together. Had we all gone our separate ways, there wouldn’t be any sort of healing for anyone. We tried our best to keep our family traditions, but most importantly we were there for each other. We still made jokes and laughed. It’s what our family that we lost would have wanted.
Last year, I was going through a rough time with my then boyfriend. I knew things were coming to an end, and things really came to a head just right before Christmas. He didn’t come, let alone call on Christmas. It was rough, let me tell you! I waited by the door like a sad puppy dog waiting for its owner. It was a Christmas I’d rather forget.
What made it easier, however, is that my family was there. I mean, they all wanted to beat him up for standing me up on Christmas, but not the point! They were there and they were doing their best to make sure I was happy.
If I locked myself up in my room, things would have been a different mess. Healing would have probably taken a lot longer.
Do your best to still have fun.
This one is a rough one.
I also don’t want to you to confuse this with “have fun!” because you shouldn’t force it. It’s a tough middle ground.
Look, here’s the thing.
You lost someone, and that sucks. It really does. But if the rest of your family is there, make the best of what you have now! Life makes no promises to us. We don’t know what is going to happen in the next year. But there is one thing that is certain and it is right here, right now. Your family and friends that are here now, might not be there next year.
I know that is a gruesome thought, but hear me out.
Losing someone makes you appreciate those around you even more. Yes, your thoughts are probably going to be on that person. You’re going to miss that person. But there is other family and friends around you that are still there and still want to make the best of a worst possible situation.
Be open for this holiday to be a healing time.
This fact is extremely important.
Going through the holidays, especially the first holiday season without someone, is going to be tough. It’s going to take some serious grit to get through a time that you normally shared with someone else.
But if you block out the chance for healing, it will only makes matters worse. Pushing people away, especially those who are grieving the loss too, is going too make things worse. But if you stick it out and make the best of it, I promise you, you’re only doing yourself a good service.
These days are more critical than others because holidays are a time of togetherness. You lose someone, there is a break. These breaks need a special sort of healing, and it will only happen if you let it.
Also, if you get through this holiday, you know you have the strength and power to get through the next one. Which leads me to my last point…
Know that a “new normal” will come in time after a loss.
I know this isn’t easy to hear. This whole post has been one big lump sum of just hard truths that I have learned through loss. So I will give you one more piece of advice that I have been told and have found to be true in my life.
Things don’t get better, but you will find a new normal.
People who lose friends and family throw around this idea of a “new normal.” I probably haven’t been the first to tell you this advice, and I certainly wont be the last. The new normal is as time goes by, life goes on. You hit new life milestones and create new memories. And with each passing day, this loss can make you a stronger person.
It’s very hard to describe the new normal without sounding heartless. It is one of those things that as you experience it, you will know what it is; it’s reaching the last stage in the five stages of grief: acceptance. This holiday is probably not going to be easy. But each holiday that passes, that person not being there is the new normal. And it sucks. But one day, it will be okay.
But note that I said this can make you a stronger person, and not that it will.
My mum had this one friend for over thirty years. About fifteen years ago, she lost one of her daughters to a tragic car accident. When my mum experienced her own loss, she went to her friend for advice and comfort. The problem was, it was about ten years ago at that time that she had lost her daughter and she was still in denial. She couldn’t help my mum because she never dealt with her grief for about a decade. She became bitter toward my mother for trying to heal after her loss, and they parted ways.
Loss will cause some people to get closer to you and it will push others away. But this is all part of the new normal. You will find what people are really made of and whether they are true blue or not. Those who are are going to be the people that help get you through these holidays. And they will help you find your new normal.
Do you agree with what I said? What else would you tell someone who is grieving this holiday? Tell me in the comments below!