Grief during the holidays: An unwelcome guest deserving of great hospitality

We humans are incredibly vulnerable. We are all susceptible to tragedy and loss and the grief that follows. The holidays can be a time of intensified grief for many of us. This is because the holidays highlight our loss. Thanksgiving and Christmas are about connection and celebration, two things that loss can seriously dampen our capacity to participate in. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate abundance, but we may be also be feeling a distinct absence. Christmas is a time when we celebrate a special birth, but we may also be grieving a special death.
When it comes to grief, words just simply are not adequate. Because grief is sacred. Grief is holy. And sometimes, when in the presence of sacredness and holiness, silence, not words, is the only appropriate response. A bond that is sacred to us has been lost. And that depth of love and loss demands that it be honored.
Grief is not just a process, it is also a path of transformation. We never “return to normal.” We arrive at a new normal. We never “get over it.” We get through it. We never “move on.” We move forward. Grief changes us.
Sometimes acceptance and depression are two sides of the same coin. Acceptance can be talked about in ways that sound like a warm, fuzzy future destination, the “end” of the grief cycle. But this just simply isn’t true. Yes, wounds heal. But acceptance means that we are accepting a reality less than the one we had. We want who and what was taken from us to be returned. Acceptance can be very depressing.
If you are currently grieving, I encourage you to not isolate over the next few weeks. Connection is not just important, it is non-negotiable. See, the grief process is not just a process of healing, it is a process of recovery. A major part of this work is the recovery of parts of ourselves that are lost when we lose someone central to us. Grief is a natural response to a comprehensive wound.
Grief is an emotional, mental, and spiritual wound; and this is precisely because it is a relational wound. The point of contact, and therefore the point of loss, is the role we played: parent, child, spouse, friend. Living in the light of death can bring about a loss of meaning and purpose and we can carry the relational phantom pains for a long time. As much as it may hurt, it is important to create new points of relational contact and to utilize the existing relationships available to us. And it’s okay to ask for what you need. Sometimes we just need someone to sit with us without filling the space with too many words, advice, small talk, or pep talks. Maybe just having someone sit with us is enough. Maybe “I see you, I’m with you and I love you” is all we need to hear. Ask to be loved in ways that feel like love to you.
When clients are feeling stuck in grief, I often encourage them to move towards the life they want in hopes that their feelings will eventually catch up with them. Because if we wait until we feel like it, we may not move. It is common to go numb. This can be a gift as long as it doesn’t become a lifestyle. Anger is also a gift as long as it doesn’t become the new normal. Whatever you may be feeling, please know that it is valid.
Grief is important. Grief is appropriate. Grief is holy. Grief is sacred.
When our loved ones pass, they become our ancestors. “I carry you in my heart” becomes our mantra. The fact that we have the capacity to suffer so greatly is all the evidence I need to prove that we are spiritual beings. I truly believe that we are never closer to the heart of God than when we are suffering.
Although grief may be an unwelcome guest, may we show her great hospitality. Hosting our grief is a form of self-care that is so incredibly important. For, ultimately, it is our grief, a central part of who we are, that we are hosting. And she deserves the best of care. Make space for her at your table as a guest of honor.
If you are visited by grief in the coming weeks, I wish you radical self-care, connection with others that are worthy of the privilege of being with you in your pain, a peace that surpasses heartache and a hope that sustains you when such peace is not an option.
Tony Caldwell, LCSW is a psychotherapist in private practice in Oxford, Miss.

News

One girl dead, another sent to hospital after Amber Alert issued for missing children. Mother found brutally slain.

News

Get ready to indulge in the best flavors of the South at this Mississippi food and wine festival

News

Former Mississippi Lottery official accused of embezzling nearly $200,000 from taxpayers enters guilty plea

News

Mississippi woman arrested for cyberstalking after reports of fake calls, notes sent to victim’s house

News

Mississippi woman, who didn’t know she was pregnant, gives birth to ‘Golden Corral’ child in restaurant

News

Former Mississippi police officer sentenced to federal prison after pleading guilty to forcing arrestee lick urine from floor

News

‘Hang on for the ride’ — Mississippi mayor touts $1.38 billion economic boost from new developments

News

Two people injured in shooting at Mississippi Walmart

News

Body found in trunk of car at Mississippi used car lot identified as missing woman last seen leaving 1 a.m. crash

News

Mississippi man killed in crash on rural Mississippi highway

News

13-year-old Mississippi boy arrested after mother’s boyfriend stabbed to death

News

Disturbance at Mississippi apartments leads to double burglary arrests

News

Trial begins for mother accused of 2023 manslaughter after child found dead in pond

News

Officials: Bear spotted in wooded area near Mississippi businesses should be left alone

News

Jerry Lee Lewis’ Mississippi ranch to open to public; fans can walk where the Killer walked

News

Dead body found in trunk at used car lot, near area search for missing Mississippi woman had taken place

News

Mississippi doctor on vacation with family helps save life of shark-bite victim

News

Kia tells these SUV owners to ‘park outside’ due to fire risk as company recall hits nearly half million vehicles

News

Mississippi teen shot to death, police say

News

How gas prices have changed in Mississippi in the last week

News

Mississippi bicyclist killed early Sunday after colliding with motor vehicle, police say

News

Third time is charm for new Miss Mississippi Becky Williams

News

‘We are guests in the Gulf’ sheriff warns after two shark attacks left two people critically injured

News

Mississippi assistant police chief charged with domestic violence