19th November 2018

Endings during festive seasons and holidays

When it is the last time

Endings during festive seasons (c) KarinSieger.com
Courtesy of Antranias via Pixabay.com

Endings happen all the time. Saying good-bye, coping with death and dealing with painful change during a festive season or holiday can be particularly hard.

How can we do endings in peace?

What has come or is coming to an end for you?

Good-bye to a job, colleagues, home, location or country, to a relationship or friendship, to financial security, your social status, your physical health, certainty, your peace of mind, or good bye to a life – that of another or your own?

The list is endless. Your list is personal and unique to you.

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 friends and colleagues, 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 often seen to be about dis-connecting and ending a connection.

And therein some of the problems lie.

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 at our time of grief.

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 the event.
  • Other endings are slow and relentless, apparently never ending: like poor health, a chronic illness and deteriorating well-being.

Difficult endings can change our mood and perception of life.

We can feel sad, exhausted, hopeless, frightened, depressed, angry, cynical, guilty, numb, want to be left alone, want to be silent.

Endings and memories.

And when endings coincide with festive seasons, celebrations or holidays then we may realise just how much has changed since the last time – in a subtle or more profound way. And the same will happen yet again between now and next time.

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 – the ‘never again’ aspects. Chances are, this option will keep you stuck in the past, will continue to burn your heart, and you will miss out on what else life has to offer. You will miss out on what mindfulness calls ‘now, this very moment’.

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 we will overcome the pain.

Give yourself a chance to make a choice about how you want to say good-bye in your own way.

Try this practice:

Scan your existing memories for the ones you want to hold on to. Then create new memories, which help connect the past with the present and future.

If this is the last time you spend in your current home (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 is based on the acceptance of death, 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. Whatever you do, do not guilt-trip yourself into what you should have or could have done.

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 to you. 

Create enough space and time for yourself.

Allow the hurt and grief; that is part of the healing process. Don’t be afraid.

You may find the following pieces of additional help:

Bereavement: What to expect. What to do. Read More

If you are unsure whether talking about death is helpful, then you might like this piece about why I wish my father had talked to me about death. Read More

Hope and inner peace are possible. Here are 7 key steps towards living in peace. Read More

And here is a simple practice that can help you feel connected to hope. Get others to join in and you feel connected to each other. Read More

(Based a piece first published by Positively Positive.)

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