Dr. Elena Duong
Grief (During the Holidays)
Updated: Mar 10
There have been a lot of losses during the pandemic. With loss, there is grief. Most people grow up not knowing how to talk about grief and avoid it like death. Due to avoidance, we may accidentally hurt loved ones by saying things to them in an effort “to cheer them up” since we live in a culture that cannot sit with powerful and sometimes overwhelming emotions.
What is Grief?
Grief is our human reaction to loss. This loss could be the death of a loved one or something not turning out the way we expected (e.g., divorce, ending a friendship, or the pandemic). This blog mostly addresses the loss of a loved one. Many people with proper support systems and healthy coping skills can move forward with their lives at their own pace. However, some people may struggle in their grief process and may not know how to grieve. This blog may be helpful if you are one of these people.
In my opinion, we do not “recover” from grief. We learn to live again with the memories of our loved one in our lives. The type of relationship with our deceased loved one will impact how we grieve. The way in which someone dies (e.g., illness or accident) will also affect our grieving process.
Grief is not linear and does not go step by step according to the popularized 5-stages of grief. The stages’ intended use was for terminal patients and not for all people. Grief looks different for everyone, i.e., some may cry and others may not, so there is no use in comparing each other’s grief. When we compare our grief, it may cause us more distress and even resentment for those not grieving the same way we grieve.
This YouTube video discusses grief and how we deal with grief around loved ones. It is told through the eyes of a podcaster with a history of loss. She balances hilarity and sadness in the video.
Ted Talk: We Don't "Move On" From Grief. We Move Forward With It | Nora McInerny
During the holiday season, birthdays, and anniversaries, grief may become much more pronounced. We typically spend these moments with our loved ones, and they are no longer with us to spend those days with. The memories can be overwhelming at these times. If you want to read more about honoring someone who died by suicide during the holiday season, feel free to click here.
Why Do We Grieve?
The process of grief helps us acknowledge, feel, and come to terms with our loved one no longer physically being in our lives. When we love someone and loss them, we will feel grief. How could we not when we love them?
I use this example when explaining grief at times. If we find out a stranger died, how do we feel? We may feel sad, but we can move on with our day. But, if someone we dearly love dies, we will likely feel devastated and will only be able to move forward with our day by brute force whether it is through avoidance, compartmentalization, or another method. It shows the impact of love on grief.
How to Cope With Grief
There is no one way to grieve or a specific length of time that is “normal.” The following suggestions may help you grieve in healthy ways:
Take care of the basics, such as eating, sleeping, and moving around. After the loss of a loved one, getting out of bed alone can be difficult. Try to focus on one task at a time, one moment at a time.
Feel the feelings of grief. It’s natural to not want to feel or push those feelings away, but it does not make the grief go away. Grief encompasses many emotions, so let yourself feel them. It may be helpful to journal about it.
Seek support. Talk to loved ones about your deceased loved one. They may help you process the loss. If you find it beneficial, there are local support groups. This may help you feel less alone in your grief.
Remember and celebrate the life you got to know. This can be sharing stories of your loved one. This can be using creative outlets to express your grief and love. This reminds us of the gift of having known them in our lives.
For holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries, you may consider setting aside time with your loved ones to remember and celebrate your deceased loved one together.
You may find out a new fact or a good deed about your deceased loved one that you did not know. You may hear about how they impacted the lives of others around them.
Grief encompasses many different emotions and can be unpleasant to deal with. Please be gentle with yourself in this process. If you find it difficult to process loss, it can be helpful to remember grief is not just for ourselves but for our deceased loved ones. Some may think of it as a loving send-off to your loved one. Others may view it as the price of loving someone. Whichever way you view it, there is no right or wrong way of grieving.
If you feel like your grief is getting worse or feel overly distressed by it, please connect with a mental health professional. You may be struggling with a complicated grief process, and seeking additional help can be beneficial. If you are struggling with your grief and want therapeutic services with us, feel free to reach out to us through our site.
Validating Quotes about Grief/Loss:
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
By Elisabeth Kübler-Ross from Death: The Final Stage of Growth
“There are things that we don't want to happen but have to accept, things we don't want to know but have to learn, people we can't live without but have to let go.” By Nancy Stephan from The Truth About Butterflies: A Memoir
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” By Washington Irving
"I’ve never experienced loss because I have never had a loved one to lose. But what is grief, if not love persevering?" In WandaVision
Stay tuned. The next topic is "Why We Need to Talk About Suicide."
Written by Elena Duong, Psy.D.
Edited by Susanna La, Ph.D.