“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.”
Thanksgiving is one of the few special times a year that unite families under one roof. Relatives will travel from far and wide, the cooks will spend all day preparing the food with love, many stories will be shared, and everyone will catch up on each others busy lives. This year, my family came together a couple weeks early because we lost someone very dear to us. A loved one of ours passed away; it was unexpected and heartbreaking.
For the second time in as many years, I lost a loved one right before Thanksgiving. Family means everything to me, and I would hate for holidays to conjure up unresolved emotions from death and loss (Seriously, I am already dealing with a dead turkey or pig on every holiday table). I wanted to release my heavy emotions, not only for the sake of the season but for my own sanity as well. I also wanted my peaceful vibes to bring cheer to any of my family that is still feeling stuck in sadness.
At a time when adrenal fatigue has been giving me a big kick in the butt, I knew that dealing with a death could be devastating to my health. I came down with my first cold/flu in years and experienced a slew of other symptoms due to a weak immune system like sleep disturbances, breakouts, and swollen lymph nodes to name a few. I needed some therapy and I needed it quickly.
So, what did I do, and what can you do when that one last thing hits that makes it seem really difficult to get back up? Below, I’ve outlined some things that I found to be helpful. These can be used anytime you are struggling with grief and loss, but are especially useful when festivities are drawing near and you want to be in a good frame of mind. I grieved my fair share and now I’m ready for the holiday season. I’m going to share in a joyful meal with my family – half of whom are eating vegan this year. Hurray! – and celebrate the memory of the lives that once were but are no more.
8 Ways to Respond to Loss During the Holidays:
1. Allow feelings to flow: Don’t hold anything in. Let yourself cry. Sit with all of the sad feelings that surface and acknowledge them. Let them hang out for awhile. Just don’t get stuck there. It helped me to remember that I am the one suffering, not him. He is at peace. Once you’ve let all the sadness come forth, move on to number 2.
2. Perspective/Gratitude: Be grateful for the good times. As tragic as a loved one’s death may be, it really helps to focus on the positive experiences that you had with the person. I remembered the moments that we shared that helped to shape me as a person. I also thought a lot about what great character he had and how many people were touched by his good deeds and soft heart.
3. Support: Though it is important to know that your strength comes from within, no one can do anything alone. Find the people who care about you most, and lean on them for support. As I trust that my support system will help hold me up, I know that I will be there when they are in need. Similarly, lean on those who are sharing the loss with you. If they’re having a harder time than you, do some things to ease their suffering. Make them a meal, give them hugs, or practice gratitude together.
4. Write/tell a story: I wrote an email to my best friend. I was responding to something completely unrelated, but wanted to let her know of my loss. I told her stories about my loved one and described his life and my emotions about the loss. It was cathartic to say the least. If you don’t have someone you trust enough to share those thoughts with, write it down but don’t send it out. Be really descriptive and imagine that the letter’s recipient has no prior knowledge of the person or their life.
5. Meditate: Things are just going to seem crazier and crazier the more they pile up. Shut that whirling mind up for 15 minutes (or more if you’re feeling ambitious). You’ll emerge from the quiet time more refreshed and relaxed. If you are unsure about how to meditate, just close your eyes and focus on your breath. If any thoughts enter your mind, let them pass right through. You can also buy guided meditations on cd or on your computer. There are also many short guided meditations on Youtube if you don’t want to buy something. Keep it simple. You don’t need to do anything fancy to reap the benefits of meditation.
6. Laughing: Laughter is a big one for me. It’s amazing what even a smile will do for your mood. Even the physical movement of a smile – absent of all emotion – can be a mood booster. Try it. I swear, it really works!
7. Exercise: We’ve all felt the endorphin rush that comes with a good sweat session. If you don’t have much energy (I was nearly depleted) try simple stretching and light yoga. Better yet, take a walk in nature. The sunshine, the movement, and the scenery will all help your sadness to wash away. I loved taking walks with Tucker and watching how he took in the world around him with such curiosity and excitement.
8. Fasting: In periods of extreme sadness and grieving, energies are directed away from digestion and stress hormones clog up your system. This is no time to be eating heavy meals or foods that tire you under normal circumstances. If you feel like eating at all, the nutrients in fruit and green smoothies will strengthen your immune system while providing easily-assimilated energy from carbohydrates. During my greatest upsets, I’ve found that juicing is a fantastic way to energize and support my immune system.
These 8 tips put me at ease. Did I leave anything out? Do you have any tricks to soothe a grieving soul? If any of my tips resonate with you or you have any of your own, please share below. Keep on smiling and know you’re never in it alone!