Remembering the Love

The holiday season is upon us. It’s a time when people gather to celebrate with those we love. As the song states, it can be the most wonderful time of the year, but, it also can be the loneliest. If you have lost a loved one or suffered a breakup with a spouse/significant other or friend, the holiday season is a constant reminder of the pain.

I know that pain all too well. It wasn’t that long ago that I spent most of my time grieving the loss of my mother, sister and marriage (all within a period of six months). During the holidays (and to be honest most any other day), I would scroll through social media posts, listen to stories, watch TV shows and commercials, and long for the fun and love shared by friends and family. Everyone appeared to be living Hallmark moments, except me.

Grief at any time of the year is painful, but it feels especially traumatic during the holidays.

I recently had a conversation with grief expert, David Kessler, in which we spoke about the stages of grief and how the feelings that accompany a loss can be heightened during the holiday season. While it’s natural to try to suppress the painful memories, according to David, “Healing doesn’t mean forgetting, it means remembering with more love than pain.” And, he says, that happens with time.

To better understand what you may be feeling, David explained the stages of grief, which were created and adapted by he and Elizabeth Kubler Ross. David cautioned that these stages do not necessarily occur in order, one may not feel them all, and they may repeat.

The first stage is denial. This is the disbelief that a person is gone. It is the shock at the loss and the changes that will now occur in life.

The second is anger. David said that most of us do not allow ourselves to feel angry at the loss. He remarked that he is amazed that we let ourselves get angry at traffic, but not at the loss of a significant other.

The third stage is bargaining. Before the loss, this is what is promised if the event doesn’t occur. After a death or loss, this is the regret and/or guilt that haunts. What if something had been done differently, would the outcome be different?

The fourth stage is depression. David believes that situational depression is the sadness that is felt after a loss. Someone is gone and that situation is depressing. Society tells us we are broken and cannot make it through the pain, but David says we are not broken, we are sad, and we have the strength to get through the situation. It’s going to be devastating, but it can be survived.

And finally, acceptance. This doesn’t mean the loss is liked or okay, but it is accepted. The reality of the loss is acknowledged.

David added that he is working on a sixth stage, which he calls meaning. This is when we find and make meaning after a loss. This is the mother who starts an organization after the loss of a child, or the woman who follows a passion project after a divorce, etc.

Loss can be life-changing and overwhelming, and often, the pain will be unbearable. But, over time, the pain will transform and life will be more reminiscent of happier days.

This past Thanksgiving, for the first time in years, my home bustled with activity. My children, friends and family gathered around my table to share a meal. Laughter filled the room. As my oldest son prepared to leave, I hugged him and said, “It feels normal again!” He nodded, smiled, and hugged me tighter.

David was right. The pain was excruciating for a long time, but now when I think of those I have lost, I remember with more love than pain. And, you will too!

To hear my complete interview with David Kessler visit: https://bit.ly/2zw1ZVo

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