By: Carol Doggett
MHA Senior Director of Marketing
This year as I planned our holiday newsletters something felt off. The fact was I totally forgot November was Thanksgiving! It never even entered my mind. How could that be? Then it hit me. Could the reason be grief ?
GRIEF IS A SNEAKY THING
After a loss, as time goes by, you may think you’re doing O.K. Life goes on. You settle into a routine. Then something snags you, like a holiday.
Like so many others, I’ve lost a great deal in the past few years. This year will be the first Thanksgiving without my mom. She passed a few months back at the “young” age of ninety-nine. Thanksgiving week would have marked her 100th birthday – a milestone she was so looking forward to. Since I had no plans to travel to see her, no plans to see relatives, no plans to buy a gift or stage a party, I totally blocked Thanksgiving out of my mind until I was faced with writing a November newsletter.
CAN GRATITUDE AND GRIEF COEXIST?
So, it’s Thanksgiving. Is it possible to be both grateful and grieving? We grieve over many things – the loss of a loved one, time, jobs, belongings, relationships, our sense of self, purpose, a life not lived, and opportunities not taken. How do you move beyond sorrow and loss when the world is telling you to be grateful and give thanks? How do you get unstuck from the past and still honor the memories of loved ones and traditions lost. How do you put on a happy face and be sociable when you just want to take a long winter’s nap straight through to the New Year?
Like anything, one small step at a time. If you are managing grief this holiday, here are a few suggestions that may help:
Acknowledge your feelings. Don’t bury them. Don’t dwell on them or avoid them. Just acknowledge them. Cry, if needed. Feel them. While feeling them, breathe deeply and let the breath go. Deep breathing is proven to be healing on many levels.
Find the gift(s) that came from the loss. Without the deep love and connections we have had, we could not be grieving. Gratitude helps us see our situations in ways that can lessen anxiety and expand our thinking.
Change your perspective. Life will never be the same without the person or thing you lost. Accept that life will be different. Change is inevitable. To move forward in life, one must change.
Reach out. With grief can come loneliness and isolation. You may not be ready for a full-blown family gathering but accept an invitation. Let your host know you may not stay long depending how you feel, but give it try. Volunteer. Deliver meals. Find a grief support group. But reach out.
Practice gratitude. Gratitude is a powerful tool. Create a daily gratitude habit. It may be hard at first but start small. It’s noticing the small things that we take for granted.
Go easy on yourself. Grief is natural. One definition of grief is wishing that something would be different, better, or more. You can be sad for your loss whatever it might be. But remember to be grateful for what you still have – no matter how small.
Gratitude is an energy that feeds on itself and grows. When we find the blessings, we are better able to let go. Holidays can provide the kind of reminders we need to celebrate what we have even as we acknowledge what’s been lost. Cherish the good memories for they are a source of healing. Remember, as long as you are breathing, you have purpose. As long as you have breath there is life and hope.