Loss and endings happen all the time. But parting with someone or something during a festive season or holiday can be particularly hard. Because we may feel even more alone. How can we cope with grief during such a time?
Coming to an end.
Good-bye to a job, colleagues, a home, location or country, relationship, financial security, social status, physical health, certainty, peace of mind, or good bye to a life – that of another or your own …
The list of possible endings is end-less. And your list is personal and unique to you.
Endings can happen in different ways.
- Some endings we welcome and cannot wait for. Others we fear and want to delay.
- Sometimes we may opt to be a passive bystander in endings that affect us deeply. At other times we may play an active role.
- With some endings, we do not realize they are happening until after.
- Other endings are slow and relentless, apparently never ending: like poor health, a difficult relationship, business or political negotiations, dying.
Difficult endings can change our mood and perception of life.
We can feel sad or happy and relieve; exhausted or exhilarated; hopeless or hopeful; frightened or confident; depressed or energised; loud or silent; needing company or solitude; feeling lonely or belonging. …
Life is transient.
For many the transience of life is especially present during times of shared cultural or religious holidays, celebrations and seasons.
Our senses will be invited to join in with the mood – colours and decorations, media coverage, talk among people, the atmosphere in shops, the smells, the food, the greetings and much more.
Whatever your culture and religion, festive seasons and holidays are about connecting, togetherness, sharing.
Some will argue it can be a time of mindless indulgence and waste. For others it is a time of spiritual or religious reflection.
If celebration is about connecting, then endings are seen to be about dis-connecting and ending a connection.
And therein some of the problems lie.
Because we may find ourselves
- pulled into different directions
- feeling isolated, lonely and misunderstood
- avoided by others, who do not know what to say or do. Or we do the avoiding.
Endings and memories.
Because festive seasons, celebrations or holidays are special occasions we may remember the one/s before. And with that we can realise much more strongly than we may do at other times, how things have changed. You see – it’s the memories. And they make us compare, and that feeds how we feel about endings.
What to do?
If any of this rings a bell for you, then you may know you can deal with good-byes in at least two ways:
1. You can hold on to the painful loss that the ending represents. But this can keep you stuck in the past, will continue to burn your heart, and you will miss out on what life and you have to offer.
Not moving on from endings blocks acceptance and healing. When we do not want to accept, our resistance keeps us trapped.
2. You can embrace the ending and be as fully aware of it as possible. Yes, it will hurt. But that is how dealing with ending needs to start, with the pain. We cannot avoid that. But you will overcome the intense pain. It does not mean you will forget.
Give yourself a chance to make a choice about how you want to say good-bye in your own way.
Create ending memories
If this is the last time you spend in your current home (or job etc), then acknowledge that fact, and create a memory you can reconnect with next year. Then you can say “I thought of this moment last year, and wondered what it would be like. I remember marking the last time I was in the old home.”
If someone in your life is dying (or if this is you), then see how they (you) wish to mark this time (or not). If you can talk openly about death, then you may be able to create a shared memory together, which can be a shared source of strength for all.
If someone has died, then you will go through many milestones of grieving, like festive seasons or holidays. This may not be easy and it may be painful.
I don’t mean to patronise or preach, but for me in my grief, there has come a time when I can (gently) start to feel more gratitude for what I had, then the pain for what I have lost. I’d like to think this is part of healing.
Endings and good-byes can squeeze tight and break our hearts. And endings can expand and open up our hearts.
We can spend so much energy trying to block life’s flow, that we stop from moving on. Because life will flow, whether we like it or not. Time does not stand still for you or I.
Take care of yourself the best you can, and do what feels right for you. Create enough space and time for yourself. Allow the hurt and grief; that is part of the healing process. Don’t be afraid.
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Need some advice? Submit your question to my #DearKarin advice column here. Karin Sieger BA (Hons), MA (PsychCouns), Reg. MBACP (Accred) is a therapist and writer. All rights reserved © Karin Sieger. Neither articles nor videos substitute medical advice or therapy.