Grief Cycling Over the Holidays


Grief Cycling Over the Holidays


It’s the most wonderful time of the year… right?

The holiday season is wonderful in so many ways. We get to see family, take a break from work, eat lots of delicious food, and end the year in style. But precisely because the holidays are about family and tradition, this is also a common time for grief to cycle back up. We think of the people who aren’t present, the people we aren’t going to see. We think of the traditions we wish we could share. As another year comes to an end, as much as we are thinking of New Year’s resolutions, we might also be thinking back to what the last year meant to us and what we lost.

[Read: “3 Ways to Find Light When the Holidays Feel Dark.”]

There is plenty to grieve this year. Many of us thought we would be through the pandemic by now, and despite the wide availability of vaccinations and new treatments being produced for the coronaviruses, it’s not. The news is frequently hard to process, but it feels like it’s gotten more and more intense over the last couple of years. Plus, the holidays might mean seeing some family that we might have some new disagreements with. It’s not always the most wonderful time of the year.

Making Space for Grief

In terms of the natural world, it’s also a completely reasonable time to slow down and grieve. It’s dark and cold, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, and the suns seems low and lazy. We may be thinking ahead to our New Year’s Resolutions, but it’s not really a time for planning ahead. It’s a time for looking back.

For all these reasons, old griefs do resurface around the holiday season. And that’s okay. Grief is cyclic anyway, not linear. When we make a little space for grieving, resting, and feeling, we find we have a lot more room to also experience the joy, celebration, and connectedness that is invited around the holiday celebrations.

Part of the work here is to allow ourselves to feel both things at the same time. Enjoy the cookies, the pretty lights, and the gatherings, but allow yourself to miss the people who aren’t there. Give yourself a routine and a ritual that makes some space for rest and feelings so that you can enjoy parts that are comforting and fun.

[Try: “A Rest-Guided Meditation to Help You Connect to Calm Instantly.”]

Sometimes when we are experiencing grief, we push away feelings of joy or happiness as if that were a betrayal to the person, time, or thing we are grieving. It isn’t. We can feel a multitude of different things at the same time. Humans are amazing in that way.

Simple Ways to Invite Grief Space

Here are some simple ways to invite some space for the range of emotions you’re feeling during this time of year:

  • Build in time for daily reflection. This could be formal meditation, but it could also just be sitting quietly with a cup of coffee in the morning, journaling, or ensuring you are keeping up with a yoga practice you enjoy.
  • Write letters to your loved or lost ones.
  • Do a ritual for grief around the winter solstice, which is the idea time for this.
  • Take a nap every day if you can, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
  • Practice a restorative heart opening pose, such as Supported Fish, in which you lay back over a cushion or bolster, allowing your chest to open and your shoulders to drop down to either side of the cushion. Breathe deeply into the space of your heart and allow whatever feelings arise to simply be present.
  • Spend time with people you love who love you unconditionally. Talk to them about how you feel.
  • Set up a session or two with a counselor to talk through feelings and strategies for the holidays, especially if you are going to be having any difficult family visits.

However you support your heart and spirit this holiday season, I invite you to take care and allow yourself to feel whatever you feel, including grief and certainly also including joy.

Before you go… consider these 10 ways to practice mindful grieving.


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