Navigating Grief and the Holidays

This season, this holiday, is so difficult for so many reasons. Many of us are grieving. We’ve lost teeny tiny babies and full grown children. We’ve lost parents and friends and people we’ve held dear. We’ve lost jobs and relationships. We’ve lost our support systems and life as we knew it prior to this damn pandemic. This holiday season will look drastically different from seasons in the past, and when we add grief on top of that it seems almost unbearable.

As I’ve been reflecting on what this season looks like this year and how to navigate grief through it all, here are 4 things I’ve been telling myself:

1. Make Space for Grief + Joy: allow yourself to feel all the feelings, and don’t feel like you need to move through them quickly. Cry + laugh when you need to for as long as you need to. Feel anger and joy, and all the feelings and don’t apologize for it. It’s ok. It’s normal.

2. Pause + Breathe: the holidays can bring a lot of anxiety, tension, and resurfacing of trauma. Take moments to just pause and focus on deep breath work. Breathing deeply activates your parasympathetic nervous system which slows your heart rate and invites your muscles to relax. And I know we could all use some relaxation these days 😉

3. Communicate Boundaries: if certain people or situations trigger your grief around the holidays, spend some time writing down those triggers and set some clear boundaries to protect YOU this season. Communicate these boundaries with those around you… in a kind and loving way of course, unless they need a little extra punch 😉 Boundaries can be as simple as saying no to certain gatherings (which is easier this year with COVID), not responding to messages right away, or letting people know how they can support you this season. And remember.. don’t feel guilty for saying no.

4. Create New Traditions: don’t be afraid to create new traditions this year to honour your grief process. Hang a special ornament on the tree, write a letter to a loved one, take a drive to view Christmas lights. Find little ways to incorporate the ones you’ve lost into your holiday traditions.

This holiday season let’s be gentle with ourselves and those around us. We are all fighting battles of sorts, learning how to navigate the hard days amidst the good. May you give yourself the space you need to grieve and rejoice this season.

Written by Melissa Sulley

Hi, I’m Melissa! I am a Certified Pregnancy & Infant Loss Coach, Pregnancy & Infant Loss Doula, owner of josiah+co., and a fellow bereaved parent. ⁠I am the mother of three children earth-side and seven children waiting for me in the stars. I am passionate about sharing my personal journey through grief and the tools I've learned along the way to empower you to navigate through the difficult waters of loss. You can find me writing often about recurrent loss, pregnancy/parenting after loss, and secondary losses such as loss of relationships, loss of identity, and loss of faith/religion.

Learn more about Melissa Sulley here

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