Christmas Eve is here and I can’t help but reflect on what a wonderful holiday season it has been, not to mention what an incredible year I’ve had. Of course in this reflection, I have found myself thinking very tenderly about grief.
I am reflecting on this a lot this year, and I can’t help but think about how down I was in past years. Grief, sorrow, missing a loved one. I remember I looked at my dining room table and thought, “What’s missing at my table?” But I realized it’s not what was missing, but rather who was missing. I had the love of my wonderful daughters but it was hard to not think about my mother and son who were celebrating in heaven.
I was deep and heavy into this mindset, “Woe is me.”
Often times when I feel down or sorrowful, I wish I could just eat chocolates, drink wine and feel better.
Over many years, I have learned a lot from grief and sorrow. They have been companions at times, enemies and friends. Reminders of love and joy. I became skilled at compartmentalizing, which is a valuable coping skill. I have run from my grief and traveled around the world looking for answers just to recognize that.
At a tough time in my life, quite recently actually, a friend said, “Anna, have you grieved?”
I answered: “Of course I have….I think….maybe….maybe not…” and as I was reflecting he said, “Anna, I give you permission to grieve.”
I have learned, as the children’s book titled I’m Going on a Bear Hunt says,”
“We can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. Oh no! We have to go through it!”
I’ve learned that we have to grieve our own way…
Whatever that means for each of us. There’s no speed grieving that we can do. No fast way through it. And there are unexpected and expected times we will grieve again.
Sometimes there is an avalanche of emotions, sadness, sorrow- deep wells of sorrow, grief, loss, and despair.
This is the natural roller coaster of life. Highs and lows are to be expected.
Grief is a reflection of deep love. This means, we have loved deeply and can continue to love deeply.
Grief reminds us to have faith. Look beyond the past, trust in God.
Grief teaches us to be present. Live in the moment because here is where life is to be lived and living it gives love to honor.
Grief is not in control of us. We are in control of it, with practice, it is a story that we tell.
Here are some coping skills and resilience builders that I rely on. I give you full permission to grieve…your own way.
- Keep your ‘tank’ full: hydrated, exercised and nourished with whole foods and greens.
- Be present…pause, breathe, smile…connect.
- Daily gratitude journal and prayer.
- Donate to charity, volunteer at a local shelter or kitchen.
- Compartmentalize – i.e. allow yourself time (scheduled) to grieve or reminisce.
For example, schedule 15 to 30 minutes as a dedicated time. When thoughts come up during the day, mentally set them aside for your designated time, ex. 8:15 pm. Maybe this is a daily time, weekly, monthly or designated special dates. Then, at that time get into a comfortable chair or space, instrumental music or silence is ok, and go deeper into your thoughts. During the holidays when emotions are more intense, I do this within my meditation time. It allows me to honor my memories and not be consumed by them during the day.
This Christmas, there are no empty chairs. All are filled with loving family and friends. People deeply loved are still missing, remembered and honored.
I wish you a memorable and loving and peaceful holiday season.
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