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Grief & Loss

The holidays will be coming up quickly and grieving the loss of a loved one can make holidays even more difficult than they already can be at times. Whether we’re grieving the loss of a human or a pet, the holidays can be especially difficult because our loved one isn’t there to share this special time with. There‘s also the expectation to be social and joyful, which can just end up being dreadful. The first year of holidays and other special occasions is usually the most intense and painful. However, overtime, the intensity will lessen and the pain will dull when we allow ourselves to go through the grieving process. 

It’s true what they say that time is on our side but it’s only on our side when we are allowing ourselves to feel and process our emotions. If we’re not doing this and we’re instead, avoiding, denying and repressing our emotions, the pain can stay as intense as the day we learned of the loss. I’ve done therapy with people who lost a loved one 10 or more years ago and in talking to them you would think their loved one died last week. So time is only on our side if we’re doing our part and allowing time to do its part.

So what do we do on Thanksgiving? How do we get through Christmas or Hanukkah, birthdays and anniversaries, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day without our loved one? I recommend having a plan for these dates even if that plan is to lay in bed all day, cry and shut out the world… It’s still a plan. Having that plan gives us permission to do it. If we end up doing that without a plan people worry about us and we begin to worry about ourselves. Because of this, it’s also a good idea to share our plan with the people closest to us so that they don’t worry too much. 

I recommend writing out all the dates that are important to you and your loved one. Next, write out a plan for these days. You can revise this at any time, of course, but write out what you plan to do to honor the memory of your loved one or honor yourself and your own grieving process. 

  • Think about where you want to be? Grave site, beach, mountains, home in bed…

  • Do you want to be with other people or be alone?

  • What do you want to do? Celebrate their life, mourn their loss, self-reflect, hike, sleep…

  • Do you want to symbolically honor them in any way? Light a candle, spread their ashes, look through photos, write them a letter, make a donation in their name…

Whatever you decide to do is ok. Having this plan can help minimize the potential anxiety and dread of being expected to “celebrate“ these special occasions without our loved one. 

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