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Grief and Mourning During the Holidays

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

It is that time of year. No matter how you celebrate, commemorate, or commiserate, the last couple months of the year are an exciting and stimulating time for a typical American. We have back to back major holidays for four months straight, all of which place some pressure to gather and glutton.

But if you've recently lost a love one or have been impacted by the devastation of COVID-19, things can be different.

Culturally, when someone we love dies it's appropriate to cry and grieve and feel all the feelings. One might take time off work, or find comfort in the company of others, or silently mourn in solitude. Phone calls and messages may be constantly alerting you of caring others.

But after the first few weeks or months, the concerns and care dwindles down. It's not that other people don't care, it is that life goes on. But if you are in mourning, the process is complicated and the timeline for grief is not linear.

In fact, there is no "end" of grief. It just becomes a part of you. Grief has its unique intensity during the early days after a death. The intensity evolves through a process, coming in and out in rushing waves or trickling streams. Then there's the first special day after the loved one has died - a birthday, holiday, anniversary - the grief changes again.

As we gather in small groups or are virtually connected this Thanksgiving, there may be someone within your party that is experiencing their first Thanksgiving without a loved one. After that social niceties and small talk dwindles, how could we make our connections with others more meaningful? If appropriate, what would it be like to pose the question "What is it like to celebrate Thanksgiving without [insert loved one's name here]?"

I have lost a parent at a relatively early adult age. My mom died in her early 60's and I was in my mid 30's. My early grief is completely different than how I am coping today. The waves, they come and go. Early on I didn't think the waves would ever end. Now that some time has passed and I've gone through group grief counseling, the intensity is different. It's tolerable. It's painful when it is, and it is tolerable. Nothing compares to the beginning. Nothing compared to the first Mother's Day after my mom died.

Regarding COVID-19, I have friends that contracted the virus and have healed. I also know friends of friends that have died, people that I have met at parties or past celebrations - those folks contracted the virus, went to the hospital, and died quickly. In this post, I am attaching an article that is specific to mourning during COVID-19.

Be well this holiday weekend. I hope you have someone to love and that you have someone that will love you back.

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