Grieving over the Holidays? You're not alone

Let's talk about grief; a new story with Dr Aoife Earls ND Naturopathic Doctor Oakville ON, image of girl losing heart balloon.

Whatever loss you’re strug­gling with right now, I’m sorry.

I prob­ably know what you’re going through a bit, and I prob­ably don’t. But what’s more import­ant, I’m sorry you’re hurt­ing. Whether this is your first hol­i­day after the exper­i­ence of a loss or your tenth, it can be a dif­fi­cult time. It also doesn’t mat­ter what your loss is, it can be dif­fi­cult to “put on a happy face” when you don’t feel that happy.

You don’t, in fact, need to be happy at all. You can actu­ally feel the way you’re feel­ing the entire hol­i­day (privately or not) but if you know how to man­age the waves of the emo­tions you will feel, and that you’re not crazy, AND that you don’t have to jus­ti­fy it to any­one, that you’re going to get through it.

And maybe, just maybe, you might find some con­tent­ment and solace des­pite how you feel.

1. You’re not crazy

One minute you’re raging, the next you’re anxious, the next you’re deeply sad and sob­bing. You might be numb. This is just your brain on grief. You prob­ably notice that the motions of your emo­tions are com­ing in waves. Sometimes they are very intense, and oth­er times they will be an ebb all day. Notice what emo­tion is most dom­in­ant in the moment.

Action #1: Name it

What’s the feel­ing? Where does it sit in your body?

2. Let’s say something kind

So the toughest part about grief at a time of year when you’re ‘sup­posed’ to be happy, or ‘should’ feel okay but you don’t is that you don’t feel that way always (or at all), and most import­antly you can­’t feel dif­fer­ently. That’s import­ant to remem­ber. If you could feel dif­fer­ently about your exper­i­ence, you would abso­lutely. So, know­ing that you can­’t feel dif­fer­ent even though you want to is also hard, espe­cially if you nor­mally like the hol­i­days or don’t mind doing all of the things.

Action #2: Support it

What is one phrase you could say to your­self about this feel­ing you are hav­ing?

Example: It is really hard to feel this sad and this tired. I am doing a great job feel­ing my anger and not punch­ing my in-laws. I am afraid that I will always be this anti­so­cial but I have showed up any­way.

3. Move it

Emotion will move through your body if you allow it. Why is that import­ant? Emotions are a mes­sage from your brain to your body. The mes­sage is simple, sad/​angry/​fearful and the brain is ask­ing the body and back again — what do we do about this? Once this feel­ing has been felt and sup­por­ted, we can move the body to allow it to move through us. This will allow our brain and body to slowly integ­rate the feel­ing and the thoughts togeth­er. It’s part of a lar­ger heal­ing pro­cess in grief, but the move­ment is the simplest way there.

Action #3: Find an action that allows your feel­ing to slowly and gently be less intense.

Anger — Vigorous move­ments are best. Quick walk­ing, pump­ing the arms, punch­ing a pil­low, jump­ing, dan­cing.

Fear — Vibration-like move­ments are best. Jumping, run­ning, swim­ming, deep breath­ing with walk­ing

Sadness — Rhythmic move­ments are best. Cycling (spin­ning), yoga, jump­ing jacks (slow), boun­cing on a ball

4. Celebrate, and repeat as needed.

You did it. That is lit­er­ally all you need to do. Your feel­ings aren’t wrong, weird or abnor­mal. You and many people are feel­ing this way, and in that, know that you are not alone, and you are part of a lar­ger human com­munity that feels just like you do, all the time. You are a part of some­thing big­ger when you know that you love, even when that love causes you pain, you are truly human in every sense.

Biggest hugs to you,

Dr. Aoife ND

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