We all know the holidays are hard for those who are grieving. The spotlight on experiencing joy, love, and connection created by those trying to sell us stuff magnifies the pain of every single person experiencing loss. This is not cynicism — do not mistake these statements as cynicism. These statements are true. Check out “Unplug the Christmas Machine” and “The Century of the Self” to learn how true these statements really are.
Grief and Loss 101
When my husband of 31 years died in an automobile fire during he holidays of 2019, my life was forever altered. In the years since that time, I have been blunt about the totally fucked-up way we treat grief and the grieving. That included confessing how I, as a therapist, counselor, and coach damaged many people who were grieving over the years because I just followed what the helping professions and the producers of sympathy cards told me to do.
They continue to point us in the wrong direction and provide the wrong assessment of the experience of grief and loss as well as the experience of the grieving.
Want to know what you can do to support the grieving during the Holidays? I wrote about this in both of my books, Come as You Are: Meditation & Grief and Come As You Are: Three Years Later.
Yet is also hard.
Essentially, supporting those who are grieving comes down to two actions:
- Validate the griever’s experience — be a witness — don’t try and fix it.
- Ask the grieving, “How’s Your Grief?”
You can do both of these by simply practicing good emotional intelligence. Be authentic. Speak from your heart. Don’t try and fix things.
I just received a power text message from a friend of mine that perfectly illustrates this concept:
I cannot begin to describe the power of this message. As I write this, tears are streaming down my cheeks. Yes, part of the emotion behind those tears is that I miss Brian so much. Yes, part of the emotion behind those tears is the emptiness I feel. But the larger emotion behind those tears is gratitude. Gratitude that someone else “gets it.” Gratitude that someone else is courageous enough to talk about it. Gratitude that someone else isn’t trying to fix it, sweep it under the rug or remind me that “Brian is in a better place,” “You will see him again,” “He would want you to move on,” or some other bullshit.
I Hate Christmas
I know that is a strong word. I no longer count down to Christmas. Since Brian’s death, I literally count the days until it is over.
Don’t get me wrong. I play along. This year, I got a knitted Santa har from Temu that I wore on all the cold days since Thanksgiving (in other words, every day since Thanksgiving — I am in Vermont, after all). I even got a funny T-shirt. I am headed out later today to dress up as firefighter Santa and hand out gifts to kids in our town (as well as dog treats).
Here is the truth: during the holiday season, every grieving person is just playing along.
It’s what people expect. So I comply. They don’t want to hear it — at least they never ask about it and never acknowledge the pain I feel. To them, it is over. They are too busy. Or they lack the courage. Or they simply don’t care. Whatever their motivation, the result is that I am alone in my grief.
Having talked with probably hundreds of people since Brian’s death about their own grieving, I know that this experience is not an anomaly for those experiencing loss. It is a norm.
So, if you are grieving and feeling alone with your grief, know that you are not alone. You are not alone in your feelings of grief. You are not alone in feeling forgotten.
And if you know someone who has had a loss, reach out to them, don’t serve up a solution, don’t put forth a platitude, don’t communicate comfort.
Tell them the truth:
“You were dealt a shitty card.”
Come As You Are: Three Years Later
Amazon.com: Come As You Are: Three Years Later eBook : Graham, G. Scott: Kindle Store
Come As You Are: Meditation & Grief
G. Scott Graham first started practicing vipassana meditation in 1996.In addition to his daily practice, Scott joined…
Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season
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