Straight Talk Blog

How To Celebrate Holidays While Drowning

How To Celebrate Holidays While Drowning

By Kelly Wilkins

Grief is a rude bastard. 

You’re out there, doing your best, trying to adjust to a new, scary normal while it feels like you’ve just been asked to juggle live chainsaws, and here comes Grief, with sounds, sights, and smells that kick off the memories that bring you to your knees. The only thing you get out of it is the urge to listen to your favorite sad songs and clogged sinuses.

Grief doesn’t take a breather for the holidays, either. Nope, it likes to settle in, getting nice and comfy, hanging around the background of every room, subtly reminding you it’s there, just waiting for your guests to leave.

What a bastard.

So what do you do? The answer to this question was actually in a book about housekeeping. I know, it sounds wacky, but stay with me.

Over the summer, a book kept cropping up in my autoimmune disease support groups called How To Keep House While Drowning, a book on compassionate approaches to dealing with housework. My sister actually sent me a copy of the book as a gift, so I can vouch for the wisdom contained in it. One of the most important things I learned is the concept that household chores are “value neutral” tasks. That is to say that accomplishing them or not accomplishing them doesn’t make you a good person or a bad person, they simply make you a person who has housekeeping tasks to do in your own way, and in your own time.

The act of grieving is value neutral, too. When you have grieving to do, it’s going to happen in its own time and its own way, regardless of the date on the calendar.

Grieving is still going to be value neutral during the holidays. If it helps, think of it like a psychic tummy bug. When you have one of those “everyone leave the building immediately” viruses, you know you need to treat yourself gently, to not overdo it, and to rest often. Some warm soup and a cozy blanket help, too. 

Give yourself the time and space to grieve when you need to, even if it’s in the middle of your Auntie Edna’s Christmas party. You don’t have to force yourself to be holly, jolly, or any other kind of olly if you’re not feeling it, and it’s completely okay to leave early or keep your stay short. It’s okay to send your regrets during the bad times. It’s okay to not host the holiday party, or change the number of people invited. It’s okay to say “I’m sorry, I need a moment alone” when you need a moment alone.

Treat yourself with some kindness and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

The holidays can often remind us of what we don’t have, or what we’ve lost. It’s okay to grieve that loss during the holidays. Not all holidays will feel like this one, or the next one. And if you find that your old traditions aren’t working for you, feel free to create new ones that celebrate how far you’ve come, and the holidays you’ll look forward to in the future. 

And the next time Grief turns up and puts its feet on the table, you’ll know how to deal with it, and you’ll be better at showing it the door when it becomes unwelcome.

Happy Holidays, and take care.


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