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Loss During the Holidays

"It's the most wonderful time of the year"... well, sometimes... For many of us the holidays are also times of reflection and coping with loss, when those we loved and cherished are no longer with us. It creates a void of emptiness within us. We may look back fondly on our childhood holiday experiences without understanding at the time our adult family members were grappling with their own loss, and the cycle continues. We can't create new without saying goodbye. Loss is a part of life. A reality of the existence of time itself.

It's tempting to withdraw into safe cocoons. To stop gathering because it's a painful reminder. To not put up decorations because they're filled with memories. To not talk about those absent because it brings up pain and sadness within us. The thing about time is, sometimes it's just time. It doesn't bring healing on its own, it just passes while we stay stuck.

Each holiday season is a time to create new memories, to hold close those still in our lives, and to reflect and honor those who walked with us and are no longer here. Avoidance can bring a sense of wellbeing for a moment, but it's just trickery in the long run. We live in a western culture that avoids pain and sadness, talk of death and loss, and labels it as depressing. But it doesn't have to be that way unless we choose to label it that way. I'm so grateful for my chain of ancestors, the grandparents, aunts and uncles who gave me countless hours of their time showering me with love and guidance, and who made each holiday so special for all of us.

I encourage you this holiday season to consider how to honor and remember those you've lost while making new memories with those still here, passing on those precious moments to others.


Ideas for honoring and remembering those you've lost:

  • Give a toast in their honor

  • A holiday decoration in their honor

  • A holiday tradition in their honor

  • Light a candle of remembrance

  • Look at photos

  • A favorite dessert or food in their honor

  • Take time to share some holiday memories including memories of those you've lost

  • Visit your loved one's grave or other place that makes you feel close to them

  • Gather together

If you find you are overwhelmed with grief and sadness, consider reaching out to a grief counselor or joining a local grief group so you don't have to walk this journey alone.

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