Why is it that you can be doing just fine and then the moment you hear a certain holiday song, smell a specific cookie, or pull one particular ornament out of the box you suddenly lose all joy and retreat into sadness?
Trying to find peace and happiness in spite of pain and suffering, particularly at the holidays, can seem like a lost cause. While everyone else appears to be decking the halls and jingling the bells, grief can make this time of year depressing and lonely – no matter how many others are around you or how festive your planned activities are.
So why does grief come knocking during the holidays?
It can be important to note that, for many, it is not the thing or activity itself that is upsetting, but rather the reminder of what has been lost.
Around the holidays, there can be a multitude of triggers that stir up memories and feelings of loved ones who have died.
Some of these triggers can be:
- an empty seat at the table
- decor and lights
- cooking and baking
- get togethers
- spiritual and/or religious practices and services
- stores and shopping
- family traditions
- Avoidance of pain
Western culture has a tendency to avoid things that cause pain and suffering – grief being one of them. So when you are feeling anything but merry at a time of year that is “supposed” to be filled with joy and happiness, it can be difficult to process tough emotions and easier to suppress them.
Holding grief in, ignoring it, or pretending it’s not there (for one’s own or others’ sakes so everyone can have a “normal” holiday) is not uncommon, yet it can result in stuck grief that never gets worked through.
Stuck grief can manifest emotionally (anxiety, depression, sadness), physically (poor sleep, digestive upset, muscle pain, overindulgence, addiction), socially (loneliness, isolation, overcommitment), and/or spiritually (lack of meaning and purpose) in which it can be hard to enjoy this time in an authentic and present way.
Thanks to everything from store displays to social media to classic movies, our minds are imprinted with what the holidays should look like. And when things look perfect, well…aren’t they supposed to feel perfect, too? Whether consciously or not, elements of our society such as media and retailers can push this narrative.
For some, this sometimes false sense of joy can magnify grief. It can become emphatically clear how things or activities cannot bring a loved one back, no matter how perfect they may look or be. And what may bring beauty and meaning to someone else can be seen as having a lack of purpose for someone grieving.
These are just a few factors that can exacerbate grief at the holidays, making one adversed to the time of year.
But all is not lost.
Next week, we take a look at ways to form new neural pathways for the holidays and beyond that can reshape grief and its affect on one’s life.
For personal naturopathic care and holistic counseling for grief, please call us at (303) 688-6698 or schedule a complimentary 15 minute phone consultation with Dr. Graves to discuss how grief is impacting your life and to learn how the CNMA office may be able to help.
The CNMA office provides naturopathic care, acupuncture, testing, massage, and holistic counseling to those in Castle Rock, Castle Pines, Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Centennial, Parker, Larkspur, Monument, Colorado Springs, and the greater Denver metro area. For those outside of these areas, virtual appointments are available.
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