If there’s one thing I know a thing or two about, it’s grief. There’s something about the holidays that brings out the sadness and the emptiness we feel in our hearts. Grief is something I deal with every single day, and as I sit here and write this post it’s very difficult for me to remember every single person that I’ve lost and feel the impact of their absences.
When I was 7 years old I lost my grandfather. He passed away on December 23rd. I can still remember the feelings I had back then. I can still remember the exact outfit I was wearing when my mother told me: a fuzzy purple t-shirt and black pants. I can still remember my mother going to pick my brother and my dad up from the movie theater. They went to see Garfield and hadn’t even gotten through the movie yet when it happened. I can still remember that Christmas and the hole I felt in my heart, not understanding why my Grandpa was gone. I can remember the velvet blue dress I wore to the funeral and I remember walking in the cold with my family behind the casket as we made our way to the church and it sits heavy in my heart every single Christmas. That was the first time I experienced grief, and it most certainly wasn’t the last time.
I lost my great grandmother a few months later, and when I was 19 I lost my grandmother. In September of this year I lost my cousin and it was truly a tragedy and a death that hit me the hardest. He was only 22 years old. A beautiful soul and a bright light taken away much too soon. Then last month in November my Aunt passed away, so the feelings of loss and grief are really hitting me hard right now, at a time where the holidays are centered around family.
This Christmas I will remember all of the loved ones who can’t be here to celebrate the holiday with us, and I will grieve their absences and never forget. Grief can bring up guilt, sadness, anger, regret and so many other emotions. Right now it’s especially important to talk about loss so we can all handle the grief we’ll all most likely experience this Christmas.
Grief is a hard journey and everyone’s experience is different and unique. Nobody is ever prepared for the loss of a loved one and the pain that accompanies that loss can be unexpected and sometimes feel like an emotional roller coaster. One thing we can all do when we lose someone is to take note of any coincidences that happen when a loved one passes away. It happens to everyone, whether or not you notice it.
The more you share your stories and your memories with others, the easier it is to heal. The healing process by no means will be easy, but sharing your story helps and you might find that you connect with someone who’s life is changed for the better by your story.
I’ve had a few things happen to me that seem so uncanny. When I was a senior in high school I lost one of my friends, Devin. He passed away in a car accident and it shook the entire community. A few years after he passed I was driving home from college one weekend in December. We had just gotten a horrible snowstorm and the roads were really bad and hadn’t been plowed yet. I had about an hour and a half drive (about 70 miles) and I had always been terrified of driving in the snow, despite growing up in the North where it snowed heavily every year.
As I was driving the roads started to get worse and my car started to slide and swerve all over the road. I tried to gain control but wasn’t able to and eventually I lost complete control and my car did a 360 in the middle of the highway before flying straight into the ditch at 50 miles an hour. I remember thinking to myself that I was going to die and when I couldn’t do anything else I just closed my eyes, gripped the steering wheel as hard as I could and prayed.
I came to a stop and when I opened my eyes I was in the ditch and there were a few cars behind me that pulled over. I remember thinking about my friend and I couldn’t shake the feeling that he had been there with me. To make things even stranger, the second car that had stopped was one of my friends who had also been friends with Devin. It was just one of those strange, little coincidences, but thinking about him and what had just happened somehow made it a little bit easier, even after a few years of him being gone because I felt like he had been there with me and that I was okay because of him somehow.
So remember those little things, those strange, uncanny coincidences that happen, because while it won’t make the pain go away, for a moment we can feel their presence and it eases the burden just a little bit.
Make it a point to forgive others, especially those who say mean, stupid things, because they don’t know any better. The majority of the time, nobody knows what you’re going through. People act certain ways for their own reasons, and they don’t always know about the things you’re dealing with. Maybe they’re going through the same thing and their attitude and anger are a result of their grief. The point is that we’re all going through something. We all have our own demons and our own struggles and journeys. So maybe that person who said something negative to you or mistreated you in some way just lost somebody they loved. The best thing you can do for others and for yourself during this time is to be kind. A little bit of kindness goes a long long way.
Accept that you’re grieving. Don’t feel guilty for feeling a sense of emptiness or sadness. With time comes healing, but you also need to acknowledge that no amount of time will ever truly take the pain away and that it’s OKAY to feel that pain. Sometimes we just need those days to cry, and other times we’ll spend our days laughing and reminiscing about the good times and the good memories we have. Be gentle with yourself. Our hearts are fragile and losing somebody you love will never be easy.
With holiday comes tradition. Sometimes holiday traditions are broken due to the loss of somebody, but you shouldn’t let that cause more pain. Instead create a new tradition that stems from the memory of your passed loved one. Maybe your grandmother loved the water and the ocean so every Christmas you’ll go to the water and release a balloon. Or maybe another family member who passed enjoyed baking cookies every Christmas so now you start a tradition of baking dozens of cookies and bringing them to the local shelter or to the local fire fighters or the local police department. Create a new tradition and do it in their memory, because the best way to remember someone and honor their life is to create a tradition that brings everyone together, one that helps others, and one that would have made your loved one proud and happy.
We will never understand why people are taken from us when they are, but letting grief consume us only tarnishes their memory. It’s true when people say that your loved one would have wanted you to be happy, so be happy! I believe people are placed on this earth to help us grow and teach us valuable lessons, just as their deaths also teach us lessons. Life is short and none of us will ever truly be okay with losing someone we love, but we should never forget who they were and do our best to live a life they could be proud.