Grief and the Holidays

Dealing with Grief During the Holidays


Get Me Through the “New Year”


By Rev Debbie Mechley

People look forward to the new year since it can represent a new beginning or a chance for one to do better than in the previous twelve months. The standard agenda for New Year’s Eve parties and holiday gatherings is to celebrate with friends, food, libations, confetti, noise-makers and resolutions. As you read this, you may be far from the new year. You may be stuck somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas only to be saying to yourself, “Do I have to go through yet one more holiday?”

Nevertheless, you may have had a much different take on the New Year holiday. It could have been hard to muster up the energy and the joy associated with the approaching year. It was probably hurtful at times when the media and others encouraged you to have a Happy New Year. Your questions could have been (and may still be); What do I have to be happy about? How can I possibly look forward to a new year without my loved one? What makes anyone think I have the extra energy to resolve to stop a bad habit or initiate a new more positive behavior? Really…?

Taking into consideration the emotional ups and downs that are a natural part of the grief process, you may have had a few experiences of happiness in January. Perhaps you had a moment when you looked forward to feeling better in the new year. Maybe you saw and felt another person’s joy about their possibilities in the new year and truly felt glad for them. Think about the feelings that created for you.

It could be, as this first month of the new year ends, you have chosen not to recognize the significance or possibilities for yourself in a new year. Even if you haven’t consciously decided to avoid the concept of a new year, I invite you to stay with me here for what comes next. Are you in?

Your loved one has died, your heart feels broken, your grief process is overwhelming, you struggle daily with the draining emotion of sadness, and you don’t necessarily feel hopeful about your future. These feelings are the product of emotion and emotion is irrational. But, you are alive and you do have a future. Do you believe your future life can be better than you have ever imagined? It can.

The passage of time will always bring about a new year. As a griever, you do face a new year without your loved one but you can approach it positively by taking the gifts from your loved one with you. Your loved one taught you many things, gave you treasured items, instilled within you important morals and values, genetically provided you with physical attributes, opened your mind to new and broad ideas and will never, ever leave you as your memories are the giving space of your beloved. This is what I called my mom – The Giving Space, in fact I wrote a book called The Giving Space so that I might find my deepest healing, and I did.

I invite you to make a list of the gifts your loved one has left with you. I suggest you write this list by hand and not use a computer. The movement of your hand is powerful and empowering. It is impossible to have anything “wrong” on this list. Your gifts may include things like beautiful red curling hair, or the ability to speak French fluently. How about the attitude of always seeing the glass half-full? What about those brilliant blue eyes of yours? Do you see where I am going with this? I remember the special recipes created by my mom that were left behind for the rest of us. I see a collection of incredible books with stories of yours and my childhood past, and a stamp collection that is so unique and so beautiful. You see, the list can really be endless and ever so precious. You have your own perfect collection of gifts, memories, thoughts and feelings. I encourage you to start here.

You are singularly unique and your list of gifts will be unique as well. Your relationship with your loved one was important and they have influenced you physically, emotionally and spiritually. These are their permanent gifts for you. Open your eyes and see your grief in a new way, through a new pair of eyes; possibly through rose-colored glasses, I know you have a pair.

After you have made your list of these loving gifts I invite you to get creative. Match each gift with something you can look at and experience. This “something” will become the symbol for the gift. For instance, if your gift is red curling hair you might cut off a small curl or get a piece of red ribbon that matches the red of your hair or get a pretty red bead or button from a craft shop. For the glass half-full — pick out an elegant glass. Symbols are so powerful and intention is most important. Light a candle, read a poem, create a ceremony or a ritual and I promise you, from the inside out, you will feel a shift in your consciousness, a shift in your grief and a new wholeness will become a part of your “Being.” This is simple and honest healing at its best. The timing is perfect for you and the understanding comes from within, as it has always been there. Be present with your feelings and most importantly, express gratitude for the gifts that have been left behind for you and the knowledge that your loved one lives on as you embrace the joy that these memories and gifts express through you. Close your eyes and smile with inner contentment, as you have arrived into your healing space right here, right now!

I envision that this will bring you the strength and courage to embrace the New Year with all of these comforts and find the newness and wholeness that you deserve. Our loved ones who are gone from our sight, are close by, nudging us forward towards our joy…

I wish you a new year filled with as many happy “Feelings” as you desire to possess. If and when you find yourself inside of sadness, I invite you to remember the many gifts that have been showered upon you from your loved one and smile as you “feel” the peace within, for they are always with you, always. Create a space for spirit to speak and “Listen to that Still Small Voice” inside, for this is your serenity.

May Peace Be With You

Rev Debbie Mechley and The Minnesota Hospice Care Team

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