How to do the Holidays When You Lost Someone

This Holiday season is the second since my mom passed away. I loved my mom to pieces but I never felt that love as strongly as I have since she has been gone.

I never grasped the simultaneous complexity and simplicity of love, any kind of love, until she crossed over and began her new chapter.

This time of the year intensifies the feeling of sadness: the emptiness of her not being around, the void, the silence, the unanswered questions, the painful memories of the weeks leading into her final breath.

Meanwhile, the world around is blessed with the season of joy and love. But at times it can be challenging to navigate the festivities when you are mourning inside.

I hope that by sharing some tips about my journey after my mom’s passing it might help someone else who is going through recent (or not-so-recent) loss, grief, sadness, depression, or nostalgia.

Honor Them. Whether or not you choose to celebrate the holidays, they will get to you through media, advertising, senses, weather, smells, songs, etc.

Each time I am overtaken by a wave of sadness about my mom, it helps me to think of how many times we spent the holidays together, and how much she enjoyed this time of the year. I remember how much she cooked for all the family, and how the meal preparation brought my mom, my grandma and me together. Sitting over the table and cracking walnuts.

When her passing was recent, I couldn’t stand to be reminded of those things in the external world or in my own thoughts. Just thinking of walnuts would trigger a cry -- but now, after two holiday seasons, I’ve done more work on myself and time has done its part.

I do feel very emotional during this time of the year. Part of me wishes we could dispense with Christmas and New Year’s festivities and just make them ordinary days. But I do encourage myself to spend time with friends and loved ones. And that helps.

Honor you. The stages of grief are not linear. There are no shortcuts. You don’t have to justify or explain why you feel certain ways to others. When those feelings come, let them be. I remember spending a holiday all by myself because I was not ready for the world. Each of us processes things differently. Nothing wrong has happened to us. Life’s ebbs and flows bring joyful chapters and painful ones. And it’s part of our growth to learn from both. Honor your feelings.

Accept. I do experience waves of profound sadness during holidays and sometimes I worry they could trigger an episode of depression or uncontrollable crying. I try not to expose much of myself or what I am going through to people that I don’t know well, or who are not in tune with what loss is. At times there could be lots of ignorance regarding the grieving process and often people try to help but they don't really know how. Accept them. And try to see that there is no meanness in their comments or their attempts to cheer you up. If they try to cheer you up unsuccessfully be grateful to have those people in your life. Accept the reality that you are slowly making steps forward in the direction of healing and understanding yourself.

Perspective. Time will make things easier. Being patient with yourself will make you stronger and appreciative of your life experiences, even those that involved loss. Holidays can be triggers. But triggers can also be doorways for a deeper understanding of the preciousness of life. Give yourself time when needed to see the larger picture. The day will come when from the inside out you feel a spark of grace emerging and  then you know you are ready. And those who are no longer with you in the flesh are still in your heart. Put things in perspective. Life is much larger than the spaces between the dots of birth and death.

Forgive. At times my recollection of past events is simply an accusatory list of things that I or other people should have done differently, said differently, or felt differently. It's as if I imagine that by changing these things I could create a different outcome, one without death and pain. I am learning that the hardest part of the holidays is to forgive myself for not always knowing how to put my feelings in context. Holding a judgmental attitude to those in my inner circle who also experienced the loss but didn’t act or react as I expected them to is not taking not the higher road.

Things that might help: Writing. Reading. Painting. Music. Avoiding confrontation of any kind. Therapy. Silence. Exercise. Walks. Ocean. Mountains. Avoiding commitments that are not necessary. Taking gentle and nurturing yoga classes. Meditating. Taking sound bath classes. Taking extra time off. Helping others. Being of service. Reaching out to those friends who can provide a shoulder and/or ear.

The holiday season could be an opportunity to make peace with yourself, with those who have departed, and most importantly with those who are left behind here, scrambling like we all are to make sense of it all.

Make your peace with everyone. Life is too difficult to carry stones in your pockets.

Make peace with those who you distanced yourself from, whether they are in this world or already gone. Begin the journey of moving on, and continue your journey to the best of your ability with dignity, humbleness, and a growing sense of love for all representations of life.

In this holiday season, remember that the those who are no longer here are still alive in our memories, in our thoughts, and deep within us, they reside in our own hearts, blessing our paths.

Happy Holidays.

Adrian Molina Adrian Molina has been teaching yoga continuously since 2004. He is a well-known and respected instructor in Miami and New York, with an extensive worldwide following through his platform and school of yoga, Warrior Flow. Adrian and his husband Dennis reside in Miami and frequently lead workshops and international retreats in NYC and around the world. Adrian is also a writer, massage therapist, Reiki healer, meditation teacher, sound therapist, and a Kriya yoga practitioner in the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda. Adrian is recognized for the community-building work he does in Miami and beyond.

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