Holidays and major events lead to rituals and traditions that are then naturally weaved into many life experiences. These experiences are often wonderful while we are having them, but it’s that very wonderfulness that makes it painful when those realities can no longer be lived.
Whether it’s a divorce, the loss of a loved one, or even a major change to our job or where we live –any major shift will open up like an emotional chasm. In the mind it’s like entire sections of our memory banks have been made obsolete. Where once there was a seemingly solid reality we could navigate, suddenly we’re floating in inner space, with no grip, no direction and seemingly no purpose.
That floating can feel unnerving, isolating and terrifying, which is why that’s often when people will call me. Any ego’s identity is created through the definitions we give ourselves as we move over and around the vagaries of life. If those definitions suddenly feel irrelevant –wife, brother, daughter, manager, girlfriend– then we can feel that we too have become irrelevant. But such is not the case.
Our various identities are merely what we ‘do.’ When I’m working with people I’m reminding them that we are not what gets done, we are the force that does the doing. We enact our identities.
Our problem during our ‘lost years’ is that we do not yet have a new identity for the person who celebrates Christmas without Dad, or who has their birthday as a single person, or that a Christmas holiday only seems meaningful if we have a job. But just as we developed those previous identities, we will also develop a new one for our new circumstances. We need only be patient with ourselves.
When I’m working with someone struggling with holiday grief, it’s like I’m managing a balancing act. Part of the time we need to spend letting the past fade at whatever pace makes sense, so people do benefit from some reminiscing and even some tears. But they also benefit from the acceptance that what makes a time precious is that it is not permanent. I’m just there to help people to realize that every moment is that precious, including the ones that include some holiday grieving.