I write this on the day we are getting the first snowfall of the year. I also happened to watch a Netflix original film earlier in the day that, unknowingly, was set during Christmas time. As the snow fell and I was warmed with feelings of nostalgia while watching the holiday themed movie, I took a minute to think of those who may not have pleasant feelings or thoughts during the holiday season. Grief is complex and hard regardless the time of year. However, the holidays can add another difficult layer to one's grief journey. A layer filled with overwhelm, battling others' expectations, and facing parts of your grief journey you may not be ready to face.
If you're grieving this holiday season and carrying this additional layer, you may be wondering "How am I going to get through the holidays? It's too much to grieve and do the festivities..." This common thought process of those navigating grief during the holidays is the exact reason I want to create a space to talk about the idea of honoring your grief journey.
"Honoring your grief journey" is the main foundation of the work I do with my clients while guiding them through their grief process. This approach allows them (and you) to process through and walk with their (and yours) grief at a pace and in a direction that feels true and authentic to them (and you)! So let's talk about what "honoring your grief journey" really means.
What Does It Mean To Honor Your Grief Journey?
The short answer, "honoring your grief journey" simply means you do you! Everyone has beliefs around how grief "should" be handled; how fast, how long, the outward expression of grief, etc. The truth about it is, no one knows how your grief feels and what you need throughout your process better than you! So why walk through the journey in any other way than what feels right for you?
Now that you know the concept of honoring your grief journey, let's talk about how it applies to navigating the holidays. For those who are greiving, there are many different challenges present during the holidays: an overloading amount of joy, being bombarded with memories, experiencing resentment for the fact that others are not responding the same as you or aren't respecting how you feel about the season, etc. The biggest challenge, however, I guide clients through during this time of year is navigating the overwhelming expectations of everyone.
"Come on! You can't put this stuff aside for one night?"
"You're really not going to celebrate this year?"
"Isn't this what he/she/they would want? For you to be happy and carry on?"
"Just come for a little bit and then you can leave."
Have you had to navigate others' pressuring comments to get you to continue on with the traditions/festivities that you aren't ready to continue on with? This is a prime example of honoring your grief journey. Determining which traditions/festivities you want to engage in and which ones you want/need to say no to is a HUGE part of honoring your grief journey during the holidays.
"But there is so much that comes with grief, especially during the holidays! Where do I start?" Great question! I'd like to invite you to explore the questions below, allowing you to begin identifying what honoring your grief journey looks like.
Honoring Your Grief Journey Exercise
What elements/aspects of your grief and loss feel manageable to process/partake in? (For example, navigating the logistics of the funeral or its impact on your day-to-day.)
What elements/aspects of your grief and loss feel unbearable to process/partake in? (For example, the trauma attached to the loss or engaging in all the holiday festivities you did prior to your loved ones passing.)
How are you feeling today in this moment? What are you needing to take care of yourself as you walk through your grief journey? (This allows you to not only recognize what aspects of your grief are present in any given moment but how the aspects showing up can change on a daily basis as well. Exploring this question allows you to begin determining YOUR pacing of your grief journey.)
Whether it's the holiday season, a birthday, a big milestone, or just another Thursday I encourage you to ALWAYS honor your grief journey. It may not be an easy process but you will be thankful to have identified and begin honoring your grief journey.
Do you have a general idea of what honoring your grief journey looks like from the exercise above but what to explore it further? Click the "Begin Grief Counseling" button below to schedule your FREE 20-30 minute consultation or your first grief counseling session with me.
Here's to living a better life as your best self!
Brittany Squillace, MA, LMFT