Grief and the Holidays

Like many Americans, you may have spent time this summer celebrating Memorial Day or the 4th of July with family and friends. Fireworks. Barbecues. Lake days. Watermelon. Laughter. And like many of us, your laughter may have been accompanied by some grief. Grieving the traditions you used to share with a loved one who is no longer present. Watching others partake in activities that are no longer a part of your life. Grief takes on many forms.

A few year back, I spent the 4th of July holiday at a lake with my new husband’s family. It was bittersweet for them to enjoy the beautiful weather and the time together, yet they were missing their Dad who had been a part of those celebrations for their entire lives. It was their second Independence Day since he passed. This fact seemed to bring with it the expectation that any lingering grief was not to be spoken. As jokes and stories were shared, it couldn’t mask the underlying sadness felt by all. I observed them each cope with their feelings in different ways. I even found myself grieving the loss of a Father-In-Law I never got the chance to meet. I realized there is no single ‘right’ way to grieve; and for me, there was freedom in accepting this.

Grief is a natural response and people often go through stages of grief as they try to make sense of a loss. What’s that they say? “The only way out is through it.”

If you want to learn about the stages of loss and grief, how you can console a grieving friend, help a grieving child, or tips for getting through the holidays, there are some great articles on the Grief Topics page.

Personally, when I’ve been the one grieving in the past, I would prefer that my friends acknowledge the pain. In general, when people are unsure what to do, they tend to do nothing. Nothing doesn’t help at all. Acknowledging that you’re a witness to my grief and pain helps me feel less alone. Sometimes, just sitting with someone in their pain is the best gift you could give.

What tips would you add?

Remember, your pain is real, but so is hope!


Written by Heather Hunley.


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