It’s Dreaded December, If You’re Grieving…

Yesterday I asked my client how they were doing with the holidays approaching, now that it’s December. After a long sigh they replied, “Honestly, I’m dreading it.”

So, welcome to dreaded December especially for those of you in acute grief going through your first holiday season without your loved one. Or perhaps you’re deep in the throes of some kind of soul initiation-something’s been ripped away and you’re deep in the cocoon goo I call liminal space.

So, how do you deal with the holidays then?

In the USA it’s almost impossible to ignore them with holiday music blaring and decorations everywhere you go, along with the message that it’s the happiest time of the year. 

The only way to escape it is to disconnect completely; rent yourself a cabin in the woods and be a hermit until January 2nd. 

But that’s unrealistic.

So here’s some tips to get you through these holi-days.

❄️ Become a joy detective-even the smallest of moments of joy can bring some reprieve.

It may be steam rising from your tea in the morning light, or the loving gesture from your pet, or becoming aware of your breath.

🎄Get out in nature. Go for long walks. Pause and take in the beauty.
If you can, bring nature inside.

I had resistance to decorating this year so I went to Trader Joe’s and bought 6 bouquets of flowers. When I got home I made 4 stunning bouquets! I intentionally bought mostly red and white flowers with lots of extra pine tree greens. So even if I don’t put up anything else, there’s a festive feel with these flowers in the house. 

I bought the white flowers with the intention of creating an altar or shrine dedicated to LIGHT.

Instead of focusing on holiday joy, turn your attention to celebrate the return of the light. All traditions focus on this at this time of year. 

🌟Build an altar in honor of the light and add to it as we get closer to the Solstice, Hanukkah, or Christmas. Include your family members or friends to help you. 

What symbols and items represent LIGHT?

🌟I’ll add white feathers, white quartz stones, and symbols of the sun and stars. I plan to arrange this on a black cloth as a reminder that the light is more brilliant against the darkness. We cannot have light without the dark, and vice versa. 

🌟I’ll mainly use the colors of white, yellow, gold and silver and anything else that shines and sparkles. I’ll add twinkle lights too.

Have fun with it and get creative. I may place my hand drum as a backdrop to represent the sun and the heartbeat within all of us.

☀️Get out in the light if you can or lay in the rays coming into your home. Right now the sun sets super early, so I prioritize getting outside while the sun is still out.

I pause and turn my face to the sun and feels it’s warmth and say thanks for shining for another day. 

Other holiday tips:

❄️Have an exit strategy if you’re attending holiday parties. Go with a buddy you can check in with or have someone you could call if you need to. 

❄️You may not feel like going to gatherings, but I suggest trying it because sometimes what we need is to engage our social nervous systems. I once dragged myself to a gathering and actually found that I had a good time.

❄️While there, use your boundaries-if someone asks you an awkward question about your situation and you can feel the flood gates about to burst, simply say-thanks for asking but I don’t want to talk about that right now.

❄️And if you don’t feel like going at all, that’s totally fine. Practice saying, “Thanks, but no.” 

❄️Wear ear plugs and listen to AC/DC while out in the stores. (This one is from Megan Devine, a grief therapist/advocate who I found early on in my loss.) I added the AC/DC part. 😊 

In my tending the tenders group recently we discussed how to do the holidays especially if you have children who love this time of year.

Someone suggested-ask your kids what their top two favorite things are to do? Is it putting up the tree, lighting the Hanukkah candles, or putting up lights outside?

Choose ideas and keeps it simple. Have them help you make the LIGHT altar-have them draw the sun and stars. 

Focus on creating one special time where you’re all together. Sing your favorite songs and light candles. And tell your favorite stories of your loved one or what you loved about the past year.

How about just creating a setting all about comfort?

The concept of Hygge (pronounced hue-gah), a Danish concept, actually stems from an old Norwegian word hugga, which means “to comfort.” It refers to a sense of being together in the present moment focusing on coziness. 

So set up an environment that feels like a hug-add candles or soft lighting, simple decorations, and relaxing music in the background. Create a space where you can curl up in soft blankets and just gaze at the altar you created. 

You could also place a photo of your loved one there.

And speaking of Hygge and old Norse language, it reminds me of connecting with our ancestors…

🕯️What did your ancestors do to celebrate this time of year? Look up old practices and bring them back. 

🕯️What foods did they eat at this time of year? Can you make those or find special take out?

🕯️Learn some holiday phrases in their languages. 

🕯️Set up a simple holiday altar just for them. 

What ever you do, keep it simple. Lighting one candle is enough.

Or just allow yourself to be sad as you wrap that cozy blanket around you.

And remember-the light is returning in the northern hemisphere as well as in your soul.