Updated: Jul 12, 2020
The death of a loved one is hard, especially around the holidays. Memories can be hard to relive around the holidays. Regret can be tough to live with, especially around the holidays. What am I trying to say? Grieving the loss of a loved one is hard enough, but the holidays can make grieving even harder.
What is Grief?
Deep sorrow, that is caused by someone's death is how dictionary.com defines grief.
This definition only covers a small fraction of what I feel after losing my father 6 years ago. It doesn’t cover the emptiness inside me that will never be filled, and it doesn’t cover the frustration of not being able to bring him back, it doesn’t cover the pain I feel when I go to call him and remember I can’t because he’s gone.
My father was my best friend, I called him everyday, multiple times and since my parents live close to me I popped in for a visit several times a week. My father was someone I looked up to and often sought his wisdom on several matters in my life. I was there when he passed away and I will never get that image out of my head. The day my father died, a part of me died with him.
Several years have past and although the pain isn’t as intense, I still hurt. I still cry and at times I am still angry. This pain, hurt and anger I feel is intensified around the holidays. My father was born on Halloween,. He loved Thanksgiving and turned into an excited kid waiting for Santa around Christmas. Yeah, you see where I’m going with this?
Grief is a nasyt fu*cking bitch that I’d like to throat punch, but since I can’t, I can help my Hey Brown Girls! get through the holidays with some tips from this blog post.
Types of Grief
Yes, we all grieve differently, but what type of grief do you have? Knowing this is important so can recognize any triggers you may have and find coping skills to help you. Elizz.com lists the different types of grief, I’ll be brief in describing them.
Anticipatory Grief - for family caregivers, grief often starts when the person you are caring for gets a significant diagnosis and their health begins to deteriorate
Normal grief - any response that resembles what you might predict grief to look like (if that makes any sense!)
Delayed grief - reactions and emotions in response to a death are postponed until a later time
Complicated grief (traumatic or prolonged) - ‘normal grief’ that becomes severe in longevity and significantly impairs the ability to function
Disenfranchised grief - felt when someone experiences a loss but others do not acknowledge the importance of the loss in the person’s life
Chronic grief - this can be experienced in many ways: through feelings of hopelessness, a sense of disbelief that the loss is real, avoidance of any situation that may remind someone of the loss, or loss of meaning and value in a belief system
Cumulative grief - occurs when multiple losses are experienced, often within a short period of time
Masked grief - can be in the form of physical symptoms or other negative behaviours that are out of character
Distorted grief - can present with extreme feelings of guilt or anger, noticeable changes in behaviour, hostility towards a particular person, plus other self-destructive behaviours
Exaggerated grief - felt through the intensification of normal grief responses. This intensification has a tendency to worsen as time moves on
Inhibited grief - when someone doesn’t outwardly show any typical signs of grief
Collective grief - felt by a group. For example, this could be experienced by a community, city, or country as a result of a natural disaster, death of a public figure, or a terrorist attack
Absent grief - when someone does not acknowledge the loss and shows no signs of grief
Have you found what type of grief you are dealing with? I’m not a doctor or a licensed therapist, but I assume that it is possible to experience more than one type of grief. I am dealing with normal grief when it came to my father’s death. If you’d care to share, let me know what kind of grief you’re dealing with in the comments.
Triggers Part Duex
We talked about triggers a few weeks ago, but let’s revisit what the term trigger means.
A trigger is something that sets off a memory or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.
Triggers are different for everyone, but if you’re new to grief, your triggers could be different since we’re in the holiday season. However, what’s important to remember here is that it is something that sets off your trigger. What is your something?
Here’s my something: I was there in the ER watching the doctors perform CPR on my father and I heard the flatline on the machines. I knew my father was gone when I walked into the room and for a while my flashbacks would put me right back in that ER room, but that memory doesn’t trigger me during the holidays. What triggers me is thinking about what meal we’re having - my father LOVED to cook. What triggers me is putting up the Christmas tree - that was one of his favorite things to do.
Remember, triggers are activated by our 5 senses: See, Hear, Touch, Taste and Smell. My triggers are activated by seeing the Christmas tree and smelling the food cooking. When I’m triggered by these memories, I feel an intense sense of loss, emptiness, sadness, anger and frustration. I can feel all of them at one time or one at a time, it depends. Grief and the path it leads you on isn’t something you can predict, it’s sloppy, messy and sh@tty. It’s normal for you to have a few or several emotions at a time - and it’s okay. The holidays can bring up powerful memories and feelings - how do you deal with them? Even if years have passed since you lost your your loved one, it’s normal to continue to feel the way you feel.
Coping with Grief During the Holidays
I would recommend that when you are triggered and have positive coping skills, continue to do what helps you. However, here are some ways to cope with your grief over the holidays according to WhatsYourGrief.com:
Acknowledge that the holidays will be different and they will be tough.
Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one.
Remember that not everyone will be grieving the same way you are grieving.
Be honest. Tell people what you DO want to do for the holidays and what you DON’T want to do.
Remember, it is okay to be happy – this doesn’t diminish how much you love and miss the person who isn’t there this holiday. Don’t feel guilty for the joy you do find this holiday season.
There’s one more way to cope I got from Grief.com that I wanted to share is to cancelling the holiday altogether - you read that correctly. If you think it would be too much and too hard, it’s ok.
This post was heavy for me, I avoided researching and writing it for the longest time. The pain I feel now is not as intense as it was a few years ago, but it’s the holidays and I always get sad around this time. However, writing this wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, I think because I know what I’m writing is helping you - at least I hope ;)
My 2 Cents
Grief fu@cking sucks
I hope this post was helpful and that you feel better equipped to face your challenges this holiday.
Remember Brown Girls, you got this and you are NOT alone.
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