Coping With Loss During a Joyous Season

Kristin Schwartz, MC, PsyD on Mar 06, 2023 in Life Transition

For many, the holidays are a time for gathering, giving, and celebration. While it can be a time of joy, gratitude, and parties, it can also be when our losses and hurts stand in stark contrast to those around us. This is especially true when we’re going through grief: the grief of losing a loved one, the grief of losing our financial stability, or the grief of having to give up on a long-held dream. Witnessing others go on with their celebrations can feel isolating and intensify feelings of loss and loneliness. It’s times like these when we have a choice: We can step into the void and continue to isolate and recede into our own dark spaces, or we can choose to build bridges and allow this time to be one of carving out new paths to peace and happiness.

When navigating loss, a powerful path to healing is building special spaces and habits around the feelings of love and joy embodied by the person or experience for which we are grieving. The first step is often the most difficult: allow ourselves to consider the key features or aspects of the lost person, place, or dream. Select a few (no more than five) of the key elements that made this person, place, or experience unique. For example, in grieving the loss of my mother, I think of her insatiable love of reading, faith and symbology, passion for empowering and caring for women in childbirth, and love of all things red. In cultivating your ritual, you can select any combination of features, tangible or intangible.

In creating a ritual for honoring these feelings of loss, we create rituals in time and space. For example, create a physical space in your home or work environment with images or items that celebrate the identified features. Indeed, these can be as large as a traditional altar or as small as a petite stone angel tucked into your pocket each morning. This can also mean allowing experiences, like picking up a new book or seeing a favorite color, to be an opportunity to bring love into your heart and mind. You can send a short mental message into the world, such as "I choose to love and let go with love," or "I am safe, and all is well," or "I let go of expectations and am open to new life."

In doing this, we can remain connected to the season's spirit while honoring the truth of our own experience of grief. The more we embrace our reality and allow those truths to be fully integrated into our understanding of ourselves, the greater our connectedness will be, opening us fully to the infinite possibilities of life.

Kristin Schwartz is a Psychologist in San Diego, CA.

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