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Grieving through the holidays

The holidays are a joyous time. A time filled with cheer, sweets and smiling faces. It is a time where friends and family gather and celebrate being together. There is gift giving, cheerful songs and lots of eating. There always seems to be get togethers and gatherings with friends and family and catching up on the year.

The holidays just aren't the same though, when you are grieving. There is always someone missing from the holiday gathering, someone you want to share a holiday moment with or send a Christmas card to. And if that person has passed away, you are left with sadness from not being able to share that holiday together.

My sister in law passed away at the beginning of December, after a three year battle with cancer. Even when you know a loved one is losing their battle, you don't know what the days ahead will bring. We are so grateful we were able to spend the final days together as a family, but even then we didn't know those final days would be the end.  Now, this holiday season has a void, an emptiness and one less person who will be at Christmas dinner.

Presents get passed around and you know there is someone missing who should be there. Why do we get to open presents from her but she isn't here to open her presents. People come to visit and ask the inevitable question "How are you?". To me, this is the worst question to ask a grieving person. I want to answer, "Horrible" or even just "sad" but then it would be more awkward.  "We are doing okay" is usually what comes out, but okay is not the word I would purposely choose.

My father passed away a year and a half ago. This Christmas will be the first holiday since he passed that I will not be with my mom and sister. The season just isn't the same. The traditions are a little different now, and the room a little less crowded when we open up presents. I address Christmas cards and can't send one to heaven. The family gatherings get smaller. The conversations missing the angels above.

Along this grieving journey I travel, I have grown to realize there are so many others traveling this road alongside me. No two people grieve the same, but no one person has to grieve alone. There is a community of support and love that is grieving in their own way and together. And we can make it through the season, together.

Talking about loved ones who have passed away is hard. We want to live in the memory and keep them alive in our thoughts. But often those memories bring sadness and tears. Talking about them can be hard but oh so therapeutic in the end. Sometimes that is all I want to do, talk about memories and how I loved when he did this, or how I wondered why she never did that. Other times I just want to be washed away in silence and talking will bring nothing but tears to my eyes.

Being surrounded by others can be the best medicine. Surrounding yourself with friends and family that can remind us of all the ones who care about us and love us. Alone time can be the loneliest time. Being alone can bring too much thinking and only more sadness. Being surrounded by others and just talking can help the grieving process.

Crowds can be overwhelming and daunting to think about, much less experience. While being surrounded by family and friends is good, being surrounded by crowds and large groups can just be too much. The thought of being alone in the crowd or not having your special loved one with you, just brings back the sadness. Crowds can be overbearing and make you feel anxious. Having to come up with small talk and mindless conversations can just be exhausting when all you want to do is share one last moment with your loved ones, but you can't.

This holiday season, just know there is someone struggling and learning how to cope without their loved ones. Grieving through the holidays may not be easy, but you may be the bright light that some one who is grieving may need. No one has to travel this journey alone. There is always a shoulder to lean on and a hand to hold, it just might be a different one than you had before. Together, we can make it through the holidays.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny


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