The holidays are among us. A time of year that’s known for its busy nature that can lead to quite the load of stress. However, this year there is a different kind of stress due to COVID. We’re unable to have large family gatherings so our connection to others and support will be limited. Many grieving may feel isolated especially if they aren’t part of a “bubble”.
Instead of having several invitations to gatherings collecting on your counter, this year it may be to connect virtually. Perhaps a long list of people you need to send holiday cards to awaits you. Then the daunting task of braving the shopping mall crowds to find the gifts for your loved ones. All of this, on top of your normal everyday life, can be overwhelming, to say the least.
Use this year as an opportunity to simplify and let go of expectations of what the holidays should be. If you celebrate Christmas and you want it to be as it always was, then ask for help? When you’re grieving a loss you may not have the energy to do everything you used to do. Please know this is normal and perfectly OK to not do what you feel you should do. Give yourself permission to revisit what you’d like your holiday to look like.
A few Ideas to Simplify
You might enjoy writing and sending cards and you could use it as an opportunity to take your mind off your grief. There are easier ways, you could consider sending electronic cards instead. Simplify your gift giving this year, draw names instead of gifts for everyone.
For some further helpful tip in navigating the holidays, you may find additional ideas here. (although written in non-COVID times, many are still applicable).
Here are some of my personal favourite ways to navigate this normally busy and stressful time of year. My hope is to make it a little less stressful for you and the season easier for you to navigate. You can still create fond memories and perhaps your new activities will stand the test of time and be ones you decide to implement again.
These secret weapons of mine include…
Put forth great effort to be present
For sure it’s difficult, I understand. It’s almost a reflex to pick up our phones and scroll through Facebook or our email when we have a free moment – do you do the same? One way I like to dodge this is to leave my electronics in another room. Don’t even allow yourself the temptation to pick up your phone and disengage from you were planning on doing. When I’m feeling particularly scatter-brained, what really helps ground me is focusing on my senses. What do I smell? What do I hear? What do I feel?
Stopping and thinking through what’s going on around you at that very moment really brings you into the present moment unlike anything else. It’s a wonderful tool to use to dial in and be present – and is a great tool to use year-round, not just during the holidays!
Often when you’re grieving you can become so disconnected by being in the past and this exercise can help you in those moments. Deep breathing is another way to connect you to yourself, breathing can also help to calm you down as it alerts your body that you’re safe. You may enjoy this short breathing meditation for those times when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Give up those expectations as I mentioned earlier
A lot of the stress we put on ourselves this season lies in the notion that we expect things to be perfect. That’d be lovely, of course. Therefore, dropping the expectations of perfection will allow you to be prepared for when something may spring up. Joy can be found in each situation. When things don’t go exactly as planned spend your energy finding gratitude in your circumstances and enjoy your time as much as possible. Tis the season to be loving and caring but perhaps extend this to yourself first by simplifying.
Find time to move
It’s incredibly important to keep movement in your schedule, no matter how busy you may feel. Even if it’s just a brisk walk after lunch or dinner. Make it a habit to bundle up in your favourite scarf and winter coat to go for a walk alone to clear your mind, or with someone, you enjoy being around. Being outside with others providing your socially distancing and wearing a mask is acceptable and preferable during this time. Having time outside in nature, breathing in the fresh air, while burning off some calories and keeping your heart rate is important self-care.
What are your favourite ways?
How do you get some movement in during the cold months?
What activities did you enjoy as a child?
Do you enjoy visiting new towns or being in nature?
For me, I enjoy taking walks in nature and I’m fortunate to have many that I can take a short drive to. A good brisk walk helps clear my mind or I may take time to think about my loved ones who are no longer with me. Walking is an opportunity for me to practice mindfulness and focus just for the walk on everything my eyes see.
Coming home and having hot chocolate, cheers me up knowing I’ve burnt a few calories so I can look forward to that guilt-free!
PS I’m holding additional Grief Movement Flow hours in the New Year. You can email at [email protected] to be added to the waitlist.
The benefits of grief movement help you get out of your head and stop the chatter and rumination as you move into your body. As you move back with awareness and connect to your breath and move your spine in gentle ways you begin to connect to yourself. During grief, it’s easy to tense up in a protection mode creating shallow breathing and rigidity along your spine. Through these gentle flow movements, you connect to your emotions and allow them to flow through causing your body to relax and your breath to deepen.
Father’s Day is a day of celebration, connection, and togetherness, that’s what Father’s Day used to be for me, a funny card, a small gift, a time to chat and reminisce. When I see other daughters with their Dad now, a quietness comes over me, a sense of sadness as I recall what I once had with mine but no longer have. Yes, Dad, you may have died but you’ll never be forgotten. This Sunday I’m choosing to remember him with hope and joy – this is his legacy to me.
If your Dad is in your life, do make time to ask questions about his life, and write them down. Don’t let business or your lack of time be an excuse, you’ll regret it later. When they are no longer there that’s when you realize the time you had with them was far too short.
Dad’s death changed me in so many ways and its because of my experience with grief, that I do what I do today. Despite my struggles, my belief was you can heal your heart from loss. The sadness still creeps up on you from time to time, but by allowing the feelings to come up I know they will pass. Journaling is what helps me remember Dad and what I’m missing.
Gifts From Dad
He was the artist of the family. He taught my sister and me to appreciate nature, wildlife, a river—just about anything to him was a potential subject. Unfortunately, at the time, we did not appreciate his fine eye, although we loved nature and being outdoors. Often through our eyes, we saw the delights of play and not from the lens of a painter.
One gift to me was to see the beauty in nature so I could paint it with words. Just like an artist hones his painting skills, I, too, began honing my skills to paint with words. You never think about the death of your parents. They have been there forever; they will always be there you think. Except when one is taken from you the landscape suddenly changes. So many years now since Dad died, but his gifts to me continue to grow. They have lain dormant, like compost decaying, which eventually turns into rich fertile soil.
This desire of mine to write, timid at first, just like newly planted seeds, has started to root and grow. My words to describe what I want to say get stuck and hang back in fear, but when they do come forth, I delight in their creation. Sorry I have gotten ahead of myself and need to slowly go back to when it began, this desire of mine.
My Journey into Grief
During those first months of grief and tormented by so many emotions. Unable to think or work. Everything was such an effort, even the simplest of tasks. How lost I felt and eventually did lose myself for a time. A small seed of thought took hold during those early days of my grief and began to grow louder and louder with each day. What I needed was a road map or perhaps a grief map.
Perhaps I’d write a book, one that would assist me and others in knowing what to expect. Guiding my readers to show them the way through and, eventually, out. Finding my grief map seemed like a great idea because whenever I go on a journey, I always take a map along.
Dad had taught me from an early age how to read road maps, another of his gifts to me. I’m forever grateful because if I get lost, I can easily find my way back. Such a comfort to me to know that I have this ability and my inner compass.
When dad died, I didn’t have a map; my inner compass was broken and just kept spinning around. This went on for the next six months. Recognizing now that I was in the clutches of grief’s watery hands. Its effects were present in everything I did or didn’t do. My brain felt waterlogged. The ability to think or function properly eluded me. From time to time, my eyes would release the pressure and allow the tears to flow. Even my heart was drowning in the turbulent waters as it was tossed around by all the emotions ever known to humankind. For a time I’d live in this watery land of grief and feared I’d never get out.
To me, it felt like an abyss, which, according to the dictionary, describes beautifully what I was experiencing. An abyss is deep and it takes up immeasurable space; at times unfathomable, infinite; pure, primal chaos and it felt like hell. However, each day some new experience—sometimes laughter, like the sun—would peep through, showing me the way. I relied purely on instinct and intuition. This was a journey that I had to experience alone, without any external tools, and certainly with no beloved map to lend comfort.
My grief had pushed and pulled at me. Even it shook me so that I would release all the things in my life that no longer mattered. The petty arguments with my father tucked away in my memory were released and washed away. After about six months, grief deemed that I had been emotionally cleansed and slowly receded from my life. Feeling lighter now but still dazed. The sunshine and blue skies beckoned me on to another part of my life. Seemingly in calmer waters, and then on dry land, perhaps time to move on with my life. Although no longer buffeted by raging waters, I remained exhausted. For me, the land of grief was bewildering, because I’d never been taught what was expected of me or what to expect from the experience.
Eventually, I emerged from my journey in grief. Introspection, time, and support, and much self-care were required. Emerging stronger and wiser because I’d traveled grief’s many waterways and highways. Truly a difficult journey and one that all of us will eventually experience. The book I’d go onto to write is the road map that resulted from my journey with a beginning, middle & end through grief
Grieving a Loss
If you’re grieving the loss of your Dad on this Father’s Day, it’s my desire that this will help you and give you hope that your pain or tears won’t be forever and you too will be able to talk about your Dad, as I can with gladness and joy as you do.
Would you like support or assistance on your journey? Do reach out – another one of Dad’s gifts was I changed careers to become a Life After Loss Coach – [email protected]
Interested in reading more? You can find the book Grief’s Abyss Finding Your Pathway to Peace here
Being an orphaned adult was a term I found to be a curious one until I became one. The term can be used to describe who we are after both parents have died.
My remaining parent, Mum died 4 years ago, and I miss her in so many ways. Her smile, her generosity, love companionship, and sage wisdom. Wisdom gained from living life.
When Mother’s Day comes around, it’s always a sharp reminder of the fact my mother is no longer in my life. No more garden center trips to buy each other flowers on Mother’s Day. She always enjoyed gardening. When my parents moved into an apartment, they made sure they had a balcony so mum could continue to plant flowers in her pots. They were placed to enjoy from indoors and they especially loved sitting out there among their plants too.
Garden Center Avoidance
I no longer feel the urge to visit the garden centers on Mother’s Day, preferring instead to avoid them because it’s a sharp reminder of what I no longer have in my life. Seeing daughters with their moms, chatting, and being together made me feel sad. I’m not jealous at all, I’m happy to see them creating memories as we once did. I know all too soon, those daughters will stand beside me in a way when it is their mother’s turn to leave this earth.
It’s strange to think, as adults we should know how to live and be OK without our parents in our lives. The fact is, we’re not. To me, it seemed with each death, I was reduced to a child again. It wasn’t the adult me that remained but my emotions were that of a child. I became fearful, and resentful, could temper tantrum so easily and wail. In a way, I became a frightened child again unsure of her way in the world. Scared for my own survival without my parent’s comfort.
When you think of it, our parents are with us throughout our lives. We’ve never known life or imagined what our lives would be like without them. It’s as if our safety wheels were removed. We are unbalanced until we get the hang of riding the bike without them.
It takes time for us to become the balanced adults we were before their death. However, we eventually find our way. Until we are reminded of who is no longer in our lives. The pangs of sadness return as we remember our moms on Mother’s Day. Just for a moment, we become unbalanced.
Being orphaned means we must go through these celebrations on our own without the comfort of our other parent.
For many orphaned adults, like myself, we’ll enjoy the day with our own children but if you glance at us, you may catch a teardrop as we delve back into our memories of yesteryear when our Mothers were alive. It’s when the memories of the Mother’s Day rituals we did together surface and catch us off guard.
Once, I’ve shed my tear, I’ll make plans to go to the garden center the following week for my plants and will add some of mom’s favorites to plant in my garden in her memory.
I think it’s so important to continue to share our memories to pass along and keep old rituals alive or to create a new one. To me it is a way of honoring our loved ones in ways that are meaningful to us.
What are your thoughts on being orphaned on this special day?
What if Grief was asking you to slow down and listen to your inner world? Now you can as a result of Covoid 19, you do have time to listen.
During this time of Social distancing, you now have the time you need. Normally, it’s the outside world where our attention is focused for most of the day, therefore, it’s easy to get distracted. For instance, how often do we take time to listen to ourselves and attend to our inner world?
Right now, the virus has forced us to slow down, it isn’t business as usual, our routines are disrupted. The familiar that gave us security has gone, leaving us feeling untethered and fearful. We are all collectively grieving our world? There are many changes, too many for our minds to grasp and make sense of. When this happens it’s normal to feel afraid.
Similarities to Grief
This is not unlike when a death occurs and the news of a loved one’s death arrives, leaving you feeling in shock and denial even for a short time. Then the need to be busy kicks in. There is so much to do and the funeral to plan including organizing family members coming into town perhaps? With all the arrangements to be made, there is a lot to think about during that time which leaves little time to process the grief you’re experiencing.
Your grief is simply waiting
for you to slow down and attend to your jumbled thoughts and emotions.
Why do we resist, usually because when grieving a loss it feels scary, all-consuming, painful, full of uncertainty and then there’s the loss of connection. Instinctively we feel it’s best to avoid if possible. The world has changed and it’s normal for us to feel unequipped to continue. We were never taught how to handle grief well before. Gone are all the tools we discovered that could help to distract ourselves to avoid the negative feelings and emotions we’re feeling.
Essentially, the inner world of thoughts, feelings, and emotions have all been there but simply suppressed. We’ve simply not paid much attention. As children, most of us were taught to discount our emotions. If there was loss we were taught that it can be replaced.
These negative emotions have been replaced with the need to find only happiness. You were taught to discount what you were truly feeling. The message being “be brave put on a happy face” and face the world.
Indeed that’s what
most of us are doing, putting on the happy face and pretending all is well.
The Gift of Time
Taking time to grieve is an opportunity for you to begin to attend to your inner world, we, after all, have been gifted this time. What if instead of allowing the fear and panic to take over you asked yourself what are you feeling right now? Take time to journal and as a result, you may discover the feelings quieten leaving you feeling calmer.
When we treat ourselves as we would a small child who expressed that they were scared or felt sad. As a result wouldn’t we help them by acknowledging their feelings as real and finding out what’s behind their fear or sadness?
In general, grief is attempting to get our attention, it wants us to slow down, pay attention to our feelings of sadness, fear or anger. It’s ok to give voice to them by journaling about your experience, speak it out loud, cry even if the tears are there.
The strange thing about doing so is you might just find happiness is there all along. It isn’t in the endless doing or buying or having more. It’s about connection, connecting to that part of you that has been forgotten and ignored. Your inner life.
In conclusion, take time today to do your inner work, after all, we’ve been given a gift, that of a little more time
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