Christmas Time Isn't Always a Happy Time And That's Okay
A lot of times when I write posts like this, people assume I'm talking about me and my sadness. However, I'm fairly well-adjusted when it comes to the major loss in my life (mother), but I do know what it's like to be in those early stages of grief, and believe in each one, teach one and helping those who are new to grief.
The holiday season is upon us, and for many the holidays are a joyous time, but there are just as many people for whom the holiday is one of mixed emotions or outright sadness.
I’m here to remind people, it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to have a moment, and if that moment is all day, that’s okay too.
People are sad about the holidays for all sorts of reasons, but if you get to the root of it, a lot of the sadness has to do with loss. That could be loss of a friend, pet, or family member. Loss of a dream, child, job, financial stability, etc. The loss does not matter, but what does matter, is that people respect how a person is feeling about the holidays.
Grief is not linear, there will be good days and bad days. Did you know that grief is not considered complicated until one year has passed, since the griever’s loved one has passed away?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-V) added prolonged grief disorder to the DSM-V this year. Prolonged Grief Disorder is defined as:
PGD can be diagnosed no sooner than one year after the death of a loved one, and it is defined by a daily, intense yearning for the deceased or a preoccupation with thoughts or memories of them. Additional symptoms — three of which are required for a diagnosis — are identity confusion, disbelief, avoidance of reminders of the loss, intense emotional pain, difficulty engaging with others and with life, emotional numbness, feeling that life is meaningless, and intense loneliness.
See this Washington Post article on the new addition.
Regardless, of official definitions, it costs nothing to show people who are hurting some grace and patience as they navigate life without a beloved lost one.
Some tips and encouragement for the bereaved during the holidays.
- There’s no right way to grieve.
- Grief is a roller coaster.
- Grief is not linear.
- Grief is complicated
- It’s okay to celebrate AND still remember your loved one positively
- It’s okay not to celebrate
- Have a moment, or two or three. All day if you want to, see number #1.
- One day, prayerfully, things will get better, you’ll find a way to honor your loved one, acknowledge your loss, and still celebrate.
Tips for people interacting with the bereaved, especially, if it’s the first holiday season without a loved one.
- Ask yourself if the person who is grieving and not in the Christmas spirit, directly affects you. I suspect the answer is no.
- Do not under any circumstances, tell them “Joe/Jane/Big Mama/Nana, etc. would want you to move forward celebrate. While that may be true, this is a statement only the bereaved should say.
- Do not say “It was meant to be… or God wanted them more or It was their time. I repeat, do not say any of those platitudes of statements like that. Even if a person is faithful, it is so insulting, and a statement only the bereaved should say.
- This is not the time for “I” statements. Normally, I’m all about “I” statements in conversations, but “I” statements and someone grieving, just no. “I” statements to someone grieving tend to be like, “I was this far in my grieving process by now, or “I think you should be over this.” The only “I” statements you should be telling someone grieving is that “I’m sorry you’re hurting.”
- Grief is not considered complicated or prolonged until at least a year has passed. Remember that.
- Grief is uncomfortable, but you don’t have to make it more uncomfortable. If you don’t know what to say, “I’m sorry.” always works.
- Reach out to someone who is grieving. Don’t get in your feelings if they don’t respond. Start it off with “NO RESPONSE NECESSARY” and just say “I’m thinking about you.” I promise the recipient sees it and is touched by it.
- When in doubt, go back to #1.
If you or a loved one, find yourself grieving to the point of neglecting yourself or other responsibilities, consider seeking medical or psychological help. Complicated and prolonged grief is a very real thing, and nothing to be ashamed of.
Peace and blessings to all. Stay safe.