Holidays without loved ones can be hard.  Okay, let’s be real, it really sucks.   As the warm air of summer fades and the cool, crisp air of fall swoops in, we start to realize the holidays are near.   This can bring a mixture of different emotions.

For me, the holiday season is coupled with spending time with the important people in my life.  It’s also a time of reflection.  As one year draws to a close and another one enters, I reflect on my life over the past twelve months.   This can be a painful reminder of people who departed during the year.  It can also bring a harsh realization that we’ve lived one more year without a loved one.   It can bring a sadness that the holidays won’t ever be the same without them.  

For those of us who have said goodbye to very important people in our lives, holidays can feel like a burden.  It feels like more of a sting than a joy.  We don’t want to forget about our loved ones but don’t want to be the “sad one”, bringing down others in our life. 

But what we forget is that we can do two things that seem complete opposites.  Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is all about balancing two things that are seemingly in opposition.  In grief, this can be joy and pain.  

How can we find a way to hold both joy and pain?  It seems impossible right!

Over the years I have found that learning to hold and balance these two things is the key to healing from loss.  For the holidays this might include being joyous about the season, while simultaneously missing loved ones and being sad they’re gone.    We don’t need to do either or.  We can do both!  Not that it’s always easy, but we can be both happy and sad at the same time.  We can enjoy time with friends and family during the holidays and also grieve the loss of others.   

This is challenging because we often believe if we’re happy, it means we’ve forgotten them.  We feel guilty when we laugh, so we decide not to do anything at all.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  There can be a balance. Some find it helpful to find ways to include and remember loved ones during the holidays.  This creates more of a balance.  Making it easier to feel joy since we are also acknowledging the pain.  Some things you might want to do are:

  • Donate a gift in their name
  • Give a meal to a family in need in their honor
  • Make their favorite meal/cookie/dessert
  • Light a candle in their honor
  • Watch their favorite holiday movie
  • Share memories of them at holiday events
  • Write them a letter

Balance is key.  If you’re having a hard time and need to sit out some festivities, that’s okay.  If you want to immerse yourself in the season one day and not the next.  Totally fine!  Only you know what you really need to heal.  I encourage you to listen to intuition, be compassionate with yourself, and remember there is no right or wrong way to grieve, especially through the holidays. 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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