Season's Grieving: Finding Hope and Healing During the Holidays

by Morgan Richard Olivier

It’s the holiday season—the time of year where many of us find ourselves excited to decorate and listen to Christmas music. Our mouths water at the thought of eating that stuffed turkey, and we purposely make extra trips down Main Street just to bask in the beauty of our hometown lights and decorations. Gatherings are scheduled, and we anticipate the opportunity to connect with family and friends that we may not get to see often.

It’s truly the most wonderful time of the year for some, but for those that are grieving, the holiday season is one of the toughest hurdles in the healing process.

Lost in the Loss
Whether we've lost a loved one recently or long ago, the last two months of the year have a not so subtle way of resurfacing our deepest emotions. We find ourselves stuck between wanting to appreciate and enjoy this time with those that are still here yet we feel paralyzed with pain as we long for those that have passed.

To smile, laugh, and carry on without them feels wrong and to even think about their chair at the table being empty is unfathomable. It’s not that we’ve hardened our hearts or simply don’t want to participate. It’s that a piece of our heart is missing and what’s left is aching.

Although we all experience this loss at some part of our lives, the fact that some of us don’t honestly allow ourselves to experience or express that pain only makes it harder to bear.

It’s a pain of feeling almost forced to move on. I get it, we can’t completely stop pressing forward but it would be nice if the world understood the need for us to slow down. The need to mourn the people and possibilities of future memories that we’ve lost.

The Feeling of Firsts
The first Thanksgiving and Christmas without my grandparents felt forced and foreign. Even with a room full of people I loved, it still felt empty. I constantly tried to put their absence to the back of my mind and just focus on trying to be happy, but everything that once warmed my heart started to break it. Everything reminded me of them and I began to miss them more.

Memories of their previous holidays flashed in my mind. I remembered the warm hugs they gave, the smiles they had as they watched us enjoy each other’s company, and the simple sounds of their laughs.

I knew that they were in a better place and I was truly happy for them. I accepted that they are always going to be here in spirit, but that didn’t stop me from wishing they were physically here with me. It didn’t stop me from waiting and wanting to see them walk through the door.

Nothing could change the fact that all I wanted was them, and in accepting that, I started to realize that everything was going to be alright. How I was feeling was normal for a grieving person.

I loved and enjoyed spending time with them and it was only natural to miss that. I was not expected or even supposed to feel the same about the holidays because in many ways they were now different. I had to remind myself of that. I allowed myself to feel the emotions and accept that a new normal would come in due time, but it was okay if I sometimes struggled in the wait.

Peace in the Process
This holiday season, remember that it’s not only okay to miss your loved ones and feel differently about the holiday season, but it’s also expected. Grieve and go forth without guilt or the need to explain yourself to anyone else.

Give yourself all of the time, compassion, and space that you need to push through the end of the year. You are human, and you are healing. You will find joy in the season again, but with God you will do so at your own pace.

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