Gatherings, garlands, and twinkle lights. Food, family, and friends. The holidays are filled with celebrations and carry memories of childhood along with expectations of how we want them to be. Life intercedes with disappointment and loss. When loss is fresh, it can feel raw and painful to try to force yourself to enjoy the moments, and yet, especially if you have children, you want to create happy memories that they will carry with them into their lives.
It’s important to honor all of your feelings, and an authentic expression of this holiday season will allow for emotional healing and model a healthy expression of both love and grief for your keiki.
Honor your feelings. You don’t have to pretend to be happy all the time. That doesn’t mean that you spend all your days in a puddle on the floor, but take time to sit with yourself and the feelings you are having. Practice self-compassion by placing your hand on your heart or wrap your arms around yourself as you let yourself really feel. If your grief is too raw for this to feel safe, practice with a trusted friend or therapist.
The energy of the emotion will move through you if you allow it to without adding thoughts such as “I can’t imagine how I will keep going.” Focus all of your attention on the sensations in your body. It can be helpful to set aside some time each day to give yourself space to feel. Pushing aside your feelings might result in them coming back later in confusing ways such as outbursts of anger or even physical pain.
Honor memories. Set aside time devoted to remembering and honoring the person or relationship you have lost. Create a ritual during the day when you can sit and write your memories down or create a time during the day when you share memories with your keiki about the person you have lost. You might notice that you start to remember moments, expressions, or stories that you had forgotten. At the heart of grief is love, so remembering and sharing the love that was part of that relationship can help you heal.
Honor traditions. As you share memories with your keiki, talk to them about creating traditions for your own family. Tell them about your own favorite childhood holiday traditions and weave in those that honor the person you are grieving. Make them your own by adding what is meaningful to you in your current life. Invite your children’s input and let this be playful and fun – a co-creative endeavor that you will all remember.
Weave your grief. It can be helpful to move your body or do something with your hands as a way to process grief. Take a walk in nature as you hold the person or relationship in your heart. Gather what you find along the way, a leaf here, a piece of wood there, perhaps a feather. Bring them home with you and weave them into a garland for your table or to drape on a shelf. Creating a grief garland is a powerful way to mindfully weave a visual remembrance that can hold a place of honor in your home during the holidays.
Honor the light. Remember to acknowledge the joy and delight that is in your life right now. Like bubbles rising to the surface of the sea, let yourself feel the moments that lift you: the laughter of good friends, the look of pure delight in your child’s eyes, or the simple pleasures of a cup of warm tea between your hands and the morning sun on your face. Choosing to fully live honors those that we have lost.
Kalia will be leading a grief garland workshop in November. Visit thesaltinus.com to sign up.