Life After Death: 8 Ways to Cope with Grief During the Holidays

“As long as I live, you will live.”- Unknown

As the temperatures begin to cool and the leaves on the trees begin to change colors, it becomes more evident that the holiday season is quickly approaching us all. Usually a time of year that brings joy to many people, is a painful reminder to those who will not be spending those cherished holidays with their loved ones who have passed. Losing a loved one is never easy, and there are no easy solutions to offer that can heal the pain- only time can do that. And even then, it remains a faded scar engrained in our hearts. However, there are a few tips that will not only help someone to learn how to cope with grief during the holidays but will also allow that person to honor their loved ones during this precious time that comes year after year.

1. Acknowledge that the holidays will be tough without your deceased loved one(s).

Unfortunately, denial will never grant you the opportunity to heal. The first step is acceptance. Mentally prepare yourself for any emotions that may surface during the holidays. Know that it is completely okay to feel this pain; be present in it. It might even help to keep a journal to further explore your emotions and transform your pain into something tangible- to release.

2. Accept that other people may not be grieving with you.

I’m sure this sounds harsh, but it’s a reality. When I lost my baby, all I could do was grieve and then become extremely angry when others did not understand my pain. Please do not do this to yourself. I’m speaking from a survival standpoint. Be mindful that you are valid in your pain, but others may not understand what you are feeling. It is perfectly healthy to lean on another loved one for moral support if you are respectful of the fact that they may not say or do the actions you consider to be the ‘right thing.’ And always say yes to those who offer support or help! It is coming from a loving place.

3. Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one(s) who have passed.

So many times, we focus on the death of someone. We grieve and morn their loss, and this is normal. But it is acceptable to celebrate their life as well. Creating a new tradition not only keeps their memory alive but allows you to continually feel connected to your loved one for years to come.

4. Seek therapy.

There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that you are not okay and need help sorting through those internal issues with a medically trained person. Often, emotions are at an all-time high during the holidays and may not be as easy to ignore compared to the rest of the year. Talk to someone. You deserve to take that load off your back.

5. Visit your loved one’s gravesite.

It sounds depressing, I know. But if you can handle to do this, it might be beneficial. Consider it a way to ‘catch up’ with your loved one. You can tell them about all the amazing things you have experienced this year, your holiday plans, your New Year’s resolutions, and so on. Tell them how much you miss them and are thinking of them. It is also an opportunity to bring a gift for them to leave at their gravesite during the holidays.

6. Join a support group.

Because not everyone may feel the same pain you are experiencing, sometimes it helps to speak with others who can relate. As humans, we have a vital need to connect to others. We crave it. We thrive off it. Not only are you able to vent to others who understand, you may be able to make new, meaningful relationships.

7. Be honest about how you feel.

This tip alone covers so much ground. Be honest about how you are feeling. Be honest with others if you do not want to engage in holiday activities or join others’ events. Be honest about wanting or needing help, someone to talk to. But most importantly, never feel guilty or apologize about your honest emotions! You must heal on your own time, in your own way. Those around you who love and support you will understand, especially considering the circumstances.

8. Remember to enjoy the holidays.

It is easy to become consumed with sadness during the holiday season without your loved one(s). But never forget the foundation of the holiday season- this foundation consists of love and joy. There is so much love and joy to be experienced during the holidays. I encourage you to feel these positive feelings. And once again, do not feel guilty for enjoying this season. Your loved one(s) would have wanted you to do the same. Honor them by celebrating life.

Sending so much love and light to those who are reading this column. For those who felt the need to read this because they are desperate for solutions- solutions to overcome the pain. You are not alone in your grief. You do not have to apologize for loving someone so much that it has completely interrupted your life in the most painful way. But I also want to tell you, that there IS life after death. Life continues; a constant that never stops moving. It is up to you to decide if you want to continue living it and not just existing. I read a beautiful quote while surfing the web that resonated deeply with me and I am hoping it brings comfort to those who need it. An unknown source states, “Perhaps they are not the stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.” Your loved one(s) are at peace. With a kind heart and a virtual hug, I urge you to find your peace during this holiday season.

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Guardian of Dreams

“In dreams, we enter a world that is entirely our own.” – Albus Dumbledore

Originating in Native American culture, dreamcatchers has symbolized strength and unity throughout many generations. The purpose of a dreamcatcher is to swing freely above your bed, catching dreams floating by. It is believed that the good dreams know how to pass freely through the dreamcatcher, while the bad dreams get tangled up as if they are insects caught in a spider’s web.

I’m an avid dreamer. My dreams are often vivid and constant. Some nights they make absolutely no sense, as if I’m trying to decipher Morse code. Other nights they are terrifying, causing me to jolt out of my sleep in night sweats. And some nights, they are so comforting that I long to live in the dream world permanently. One of my best friends made me a dreamcatcher as a Christmas gift last year that still hangs over my bed to this day. Earlier this year, I was in a very painful mental space. I wasn’t sleeping. My nightmares haunted me. I often questioned myself…my sanity. I felt as if every layer of skin was being peeled back to expose me. To everyone else, I seemed fine. But internally, waking up each day and participating as a normal citizen in life seemed more difficult than it should have.

I began journaling consistently. I would write down random thoughts, poems, vents, whatever could come to mind. Anything that would allow me some relief and clear my mind. A lot of my journal entries were often sad and filled with pain. The other night, I was looking through my old journal entries. Reading back on them often puts my present into perspective. I came across a journal entry from January 7, 2019. It was one of those sleepless nights. I spent the night sitting in the dark looking up to the dreamcatcher that hung over my bed. It reads:

Dreamcatcher hangs over my bed

Dreamcatcher, work your magic

Catch the unwanted dreams that sink into the depths of my soul

The painful, engrained memories that haunt me when my eyes close

The muffled cries that escape from my mouth and leaves me exposed

The ghosts of nightmare’s past, nightmares I refuse to let go

Dreamcatcher, please do not judge me

Please accept that I am wounded, scarred, and beyond your repair

Please hold my secrets and fears

Please secure them in your netted home

Shower your love and light over me throughout the darkest realms

Dreamcatcher, I am scared

No one has an idea

No one knows that I am darkness itself, disguised as a flower blooming in a field

So you’re wondering what is the purpose of sharing this? To show you that it is okay to be broken. It’s okay to rely on an object for strength. Religion, beliefs. Fantasies, or even magic. Sometimes we need a bit of magic to keep pushing ourselves to carry on. You believe in whatever you need to, as long it’s not self destructive. You see, like a dreamcatcher, we are all connected in our pain. Netted and entangled with our individual problems and situations. And when we realize that we are connected in pain, we become a unity and beacon of hope. We open channels for necessary conversations that will ultimately lead to our healing. We become strength itself. Some nights I find myself awake in the middle of the night, staring at my dreamcatcher. Thanking God, the universe, and my lucky stars that I am not in the same mental space as I was in before. Acknowledging that I still have some work to do within myself, to heal. And on those bad nights that creep up on my every now and then, I close my eyes and vow to release the thoughts to the dreamcatcher, hoping somehow it guides my message to God. Sending all of my love to those who need it and saving some for myself. Happy Tuesday, my beautiful readers!

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