For moms, this “holiday season” blows in and nearly buries us in mounds of obligations, requests and market-driven expectations. For moms mourning the loss of a loved one — a friend, a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a child — this season feels more like trying to hike Mount Everest in the middle of an avalanche: humanly impossible.
Two years ago, a few days before Christmas, my dad died before I was ready to let him go. Waves of confusion and sorrow flooded my heart and the currents of grief pulled me where I did not want to go. That Christmas was surreal; we moved about in a stunned fog. The next year’s holiday season came and forcefully pulled me back into the waves of painful memories. This year, two years later, I feel a little more prepared. This year, I know will be hard again — probably more than I think. I decided to the following “survival plan” of sorts for myself. I share these with you — fellow moms who carry the added weight of grief — to offer encouragement and support as we attempt to summit this holiday season together.
Five Ideas to Keep in Mind while you Grieve during this Holiday Season:
Set Limits and Realistic Expectations
Before your loss, you might have been the mom who “did it all” during the holidays. You baked, wrapped and decked the halls at home, at school, at church, at work and even for your neighbors if they asked. You planned, hosted, and attended every holiday party and dragged your husband and family and their rolling eyes along with you.
You may feel like you need to continue these same activities as you did “before;” maybe you feel like this is what people expect of you, or that staying busy will help keep your mind away from painful thoughts. You want to continue as if nothing has changed but the fact is — everything is changed.
Your mind subconsciously knows this, and your body knows this and that’s why it’s so hard to continue with the same activity level as before. And that is OK.
It is OK to limit your activities and commitments. You might think it shows strength in adversity to show up despite your hidden pain but that only sets up an unrealistic example for others who have or will go through the same pain of loss. You may think you’ll let people down by stepping away from a committee or saying no to invitations, but the truth is — that is exactly what people expect. The only person that might expect you to “go on as usual” is you.
That said, as a mom there are still many tasks, obligations, and requests that come to us during this season. If you know you’ll absolutely have to fulfill a request, plan ahead. Use this time to make a list. Get out a notebook or paper, or sit down and type out everything you feel like you must do this season. Then, look over that list and honestly decide if you are the only one who can fulfill that request or if you could share that task with someone else.
After you’ve maybe scratched off a few items, decide what’s needed to fulfill the remaining items and start early. Maybe this means baking the dough ahead of time, online shopping or hitting the stores early, or wrapping gifts as soon as you get them instead of accumulating a pile of future stress to wrap up. Pace yourself and keep in mind that planning and working ahead now can save you from unnecessary added stress later.
Remember to KISS
KISS – Keep It Simple, Sweetie.
You may need to simplify this year. Simplify your decorations, simplify your gifts, simplify your commitments and engagements. Simplify yourself, cook simple dinners, keep a simple schedule. Right now, the weight you’re carrying in your heart is unbearable. Avoid adding more weight by keeping your life as simple as you can for now.
Rising very early before dawn, [Jesus] left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. (Mk 1:35)
Jesus knows. Mary knows. They know how you are really doing, what you are really feeling. You don’t need to hide it from them or offer a canned “I’m doing ok” response. Go to him. Go to her, your Mother. You may feel like He isn’t there, or that you can’t see him or feel Him like before. He is.
Jesus is with you.
That’s the whole point of this “holiday season” — to recognize and rejoice in the fact that “God is with us.” You may feel abandoned, alone, confused, and even angry with God for the suffering, for the loss, for all this pain you’re enduring. That is why Christmas is so important — the real “reason for the season.”
God loves you so much, He came to us, in the form of a human like us, a tiny innocent baby – Jesus – so that He could be with you and suffer with you.
Make time to pray. In the bathroom, in your car, in the stores and as you float around in the hustle and bustle of this season — find him. Reach out to him, crawl into his loving embrace and whisper his loving, compassionate name:
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
Remember and give Yourself Permission and Time to Grieve
In the car, you hear a song that reminds you of what happened. In the store, you see someone that looks like your loved one or a gift you would have bought for them. During Mass, you think of them. Your throat tightens, a strange pain throbs in your chest, your body tingles and a rush of memories fills your mind and the tears clamor and beg for release.
Release them. Release the pain. Release the sorrow. Release the confusing and anger. Release.
Go to your inner room and let yourself cry. Get out the picture album and let yourself remember. Go to the places you shared together and let yourself think all the thoughts and feel all the feels.
For however long or short a time you had with your loved one before they passed into the next life, your body, your mind, and your soul need time now to grieve. To remember, to cry, to heal. Stock your car with tissues, fill those pockets with hankies, carve out “crying times” in your day and allow yourself a place and a time to grieve.
I hope these ideas help other moms, like me, who feel anxious as we enter what’s supposed to be a joy-filled season. I ask you to pray for me, for my family, and for my dad’s soul. I will pray for all of you who are grieving and for your loved ones’ souls. I invite you to leave a comment with your loved ones’ name so we can all pray together for their souls and for each other.
I also encourage everyone who is grieving to find someone they can share their real feelings with. Your friends really do want to help you – they just don’t know how. Help them, reach out to them and tell them how hard this is. Find a good counselor to share your real feelings without fear of judgement or undue burden.
Copyright 2017 Erika Marie