One of the dominant aspects of festivals is the involvement of traditions and rituals. While rituals also involve lights, festivities, and family gatherings, it can feel especially lonely, awkward, and overwhelming to a lot of us while we are grieving, actively, or not.
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” - Vicki Harrison
Grief is universal. And at the same time, grieving is personal. It is never linear and never follows a timeline. Synonymous with waves, it often comes and it goes. It involves feeling multiple emotions including anger, sadness, loneliness, overwhelm, and even emptiness. Remember, everything that you are feeling is valid. Somewhere this year, in particular, may be more difficult where a lot of us are grieving. The pandemic has taken away our financial security, sense of belongingness, and our physical and mental health along with the sense of control we have had over our lives. More importantly, it has taken a lot of our loved ones with its waves.
Festivals are generally the time we spend with our families and most of us have a role we play in preparing for the festivities and the traditions. In theory, it is meant to bring a lot of joy, but alas, while you're grieving? We're asking questions on how to be consciously present or absent in festivals while grieving?
Breathe: As often as you hear that it helps to take care of yourself with activities, it also helps to remind yourself that none of this is easy. While grieving is a continuous process and doesn't seem to see an end, it is alright to allow yourself to feel it.
Set boundaries with holiday events: There might be many gatherings, events that you feel pressured to attend, but be mindful of your needs and don’t shy away from saying no.
Honor old traditions and memories: honoring and engaging in the old traditions can be a healthy outlet for keeping memories of loved ones alive. It’s also okay to enjoy this time without carrying the guilt of it.
Take care of yourself: Engage in a little extra self-care. Go for a walk, take a timeout, snuggle in with a hot chocolate and a cozy blanket.
Identify your grief coping skills: Everyone grieves differently, and everyone copes with it differently. Some coping strategies that might be helpful are - listening to music, cooking, or baking, engaging in your hobbies, and focusing on positive affirmations.
Talk to someone: Be it a friend or family member, someone who you feel comfortable with. It can also be a good idea to reach out to a professional if you’re not able to identify your coping skills and need help navigating through these emotions.
What can you do for someone who is experiencing grief and loss?
Be there for them: Just the presence of someone can be comforting and provide emotional support for them to manage those emotions.
Ask them what they need: Everyone has a different need, ask them how you can help them and what they require.
“There is no right or wrong way to handle the holidays. You are in complete control of your plans as to what you will do during this time of the year.” — Richard Kauffman
This is a reminder to everyone grieving around the world, actively or not. It is not easy. You're doing just alright, with the pace you're taking. And you are not alone.