Surviving through the holidays after a loss.
The upcoming holidays season prompted me to share some of my thoughts and feelings on how to cope during this time. Celebrating after suicide is difficult as we are reminded of our devastating loss. We get caught up telling the story of their death, limiting the time we spend talking about and celebrating the life they lived. Anniversaries, holidays, and birthdays become difficult as we are reminded that our loved one will not be present.
My two suicide loss anniversaries fall between November and mid January. Who knew that 2.5 short months of every year could bring so much sadness. Thanksgiving, the anniversary of my first suicide loss, Christmas, the anniversary of my second suicide loss, and my mom’s birthday all fall between this time period. Feeling emotionally drained is an understatement.
Time doesn't heal the pain associated with a loss, it's what you do with that time that matters. Grief is the process by which you heal. Experiencing the pain rather than constantly trying to escape it can actually help you feel better in the long-term. So while it may be tempting to pretend the holidays don't exist, or to numb the pain with alcohol, temporarily avoiding the pain only prolongs the anguish. Eventually, the holidays will get easier, but only if you allow yourself to experience the grief of going through them without your loved one(s).
Please don’t let yourself play the dread game. When a “big day” is approaching, I have a tendency to think “this day is going to stink,” over and over again, and the dread builds and boils over. Once the actual “big day” arrives, that day isn’t actually as bad as I had built it up in my head. Try not to let yourself play that game. When you start having dread about a holiday, birthday, or anniversary approaching, remind yourself that it isn’t going to be that bad. You can end up ruining weeks leading up to a “big day” over dread. Your life is precious. Those days are precious. I encourage you not to waste them on dread. Do some dread-blocking. I wish someone had shared this valuable information with me years ago.
Even when you're in the midst of grief, you still have something to offer the world. Performing a few acts of kindness can be really good for the grieving spirit. Donate gifts to families in need, serve meals at a soup kitchen, or volunteer to help people at a nursing home. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you're struggling with the holidays. Reminding loved ones that you're having a rough time may be enough, but you also may want to reach out for more support. Look for support groups or contact a professional counselor to help you deal with your grief. Holidays are tough, so give yourself grace and do the best you can. Hopefully by not giving into dread, and honoring your loved one with an active and personal tradition, you can get through it and find some peace.
In closing, the best way to help those who are grieving during the holidays is to let them know you care. They need to be remembered, and they need to know their loved ones are remembered. Friends and family members should never be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, because making an effort and showing concern will forever be remembered and greatly appreciated.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!
Love to all, Jamie
”Grief is nasty game of feeling the weakest you have ever felt and morphing it into the strongest person you will have to become.” - Windgate Lane
If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide, do NOT leave the person alone. Dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, or text 741-741.