Vail Daily letter: Loss and the holidays
Do you feel sad around the holidays? A lot of people do. The holidays are suppose to be about family, giving and tradition. So why do so many people have a hard time? Are there more deaths, break-ups and other losses during the holiday season? The answer is no. There are no more losses in December than during other times of the year. There are, however, more stimuli that could remind you of past losses. Stimulus is the sights, smells, sounds and tastes that trigger memories. Holiday lights, decoration, music and favorite recipes can cause you to remember a family member who died or is no longer with you. Fond memories are normal and healthy. Unresolved grief is when fond memories turn painful.
How do you know if you are experiencing unresolved grief? Unresolved grief affects your ability to stay in the moment, which limits your capacity for happiness. During the holidays it might limit your ability to fully enjoy time with your friends and family. Some people avoid holidays all together because they don’t want to risk the feelings associated with painful reminders about their loss. For example, two sisters will be affected differently listening to the same Christmas song. One sister might hear it and think about how much her mother loved it. She may miss her mother for a few minutes but is able to go back to what she was doing. The other sister might hear the same song and think about how much she misses mother, get sad and be unable to focus for the rest of the day. She might walk around numb, and unable to fully participate in holiday festivities, or she may only talk about her mother’s death. The second sister is experiencing unresolved grief.
My mother died in October of 2007. I remember that first Christmas very well, and it was painful. I didn’t want to leave out even one of her traditions. Each of her ornaments was hung on the tree with care. Memories are common this time of year, and especially if your loss is new, your heart feels like it has scattered in a million pieces. It is when those memories turn painful, you are experiencing unresolved grief.
Until you become complete with the losses in your life, you will most likely continue to struggle and not fully participate in all that life has to offer. I am a certified grief recovery specialist and provide support to grievers in our community. I am conducting a grief recovery outreach program. This nine-week program will begin Jan. 13 from 6 to 8 pm at the Edwards Interfaith Chapel. The Outreach Program will guide those who wish to resolve their loss issues and move beyond their grief to a richer quality of life. Please call me at 970-376-8248 to reserve a spot or ask questions.