My Dad says some pretty profound stuff sometimes, and he said something amazing to me three years ago. We were sitting in a restaurant that had peanuts littering the floor and cold air blasting me from behind with a lot of my cousins in southern Missouri.
We had gotten on the topic of death and mourning, and he said that grief is like a suitcase.
"Somedays, it's really heavy and you have to carry it with you throughout your day. Other times, the suitcase is light and you leave it at home. Occasionally, you ask someone else to help you carry the weight. It just depends on the day."
I looked at him with wide eyes while he talked. I had taken a "Death, Suffering and Healing" class in high school, but none of the talks ever included information like that. I received countless stories about the process of dealing with death, and we even watched this ridiculously funny movie called Death at a Funeral (I highly suggest it).
I took the class because I realized someday in the future, I would also have to start grieving people - maybe the loss of friends from cancer, my grandparents, and someday (far far far in the future I hope) my own parents.
The holidays are tough for a lot of people, especially those who are mourning the loss of a loved one. What I've gathered from studying about this topic is that grief doesn't have an expiration date.
Even though time (and definitely a lot of faith) does help the healing process, a random day ten years after the death can still hurt just as much as the first day of mourning.
But I don't think that mourning during the holiday season (and in the presence of family and friends) is always a horrible idea.
Mourning during the holiday season has its pros and cons.
A couple of pros are the following:
1. You at least get to spend time with the loved ones that are present.
2. There are a lot of fun holiday activities to do, like sipping hot cocoa, decorating the house, singing silly Christmas carols, donating time at a local food bank or shopping for "Adopt a Family," etc.
3. You probably have a couple of days off from work (and maybe a lot of days off from school!).
But there are also a lot of cons to the holiday season:
1. Feeling sad while in the presence of loved ones could make you feel guilty - and maybe it makes you feel even worse if you break down crying in front of them. Sometimes, it might feel like a crime to be unhappy during a time when you "should" feel happy. The thing about emotions and grief is they kind of have their own schedule.
2. The activities might seem less cheerful because you just wish that person were there.
3. The days when you're not preoccupying your time with a bunch of activities can seem really long, and lead you to have more time to mourn and grieve (which isn't usually a fun activity, which is why I predict some grieving people don't really like to be still for too long).
I wanted to write this article to encourage anyone who is going to go home (or hang out with friends) and deal with grief during this holiday season. I can't really suggest to you a way to mourn perfectly because there isn't one.
What I've heard is that expressing those emotions and thoughts is helpful, either through journalling, songs, talking it out, or dancing.
I pray that you have some fun holiday moments and remember that although feelings are sometimes uncontrollable, our thoughts and coping mechanisms can help those feelings be ordered to make them less overwhelming.
I hope that was helpful, and if it wasn't, let me know. Happy Holidays!