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Permission to Grieve During the Holidays

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Shulanda J. Hastings

Ambassador Shulanda

Ambassador Shulanda

Shulanda J. Hastings is an inspirational writer, Christian counselor and an ambassador to the faith-based community; helping them break mental health barriers. She is the author of the Beauty of My Thorns novel series and of the memoirs, Keeping My Faith While Saving My Mind.

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Your phone rings for the sixth time in the past hour.

Four voice messages.

Ten new texts.

After clearing your notifications, you roll back over in bed and pull the covers to your neck. “If only I could just lie here all day and ignore the entire world”, you say out loud in an empty room, empty house all to yourself.

This might have been you on the last holiday. The only thing is that your wish didn’t come true. The calls and texts kept coming until one of your relatives decided to invite themselves over to your home when you were adamant about no company. But out of concern they ignored your requests. Their reason being was that they didn’t really think that you meant it.

And why not?

Because they were fully aware that you had recently said goodbye to one of, if not thee, closest persons to you. They knew that was a difficult time for you, yet, they thought the best way for you to get through the grieving process was to move on with your life. From their outlook, this meant….

Getting out of the house.

Going back to work.

Attending family gatherings. Especially, traditional family gatherings like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Nothing is wrong with any of these things. And the fact that your family and friends have become a mosquito in your ear, means that you have a great support system.

So now, what is the problem?

You feel as though you are not ready for socializing. Even if the idea of being around family during the holidays reminds you of pleasant memories of a loved one no longer here, you don’t know if you can handle the expectations.

Everyone will feel obligated to say something encouraging every time they are left alone with you.

It will seem like everyone is watching you and have sidebar conversations about you.

“I wonder if she is eating.”

“She’s not really looking like herself.”

“I don’t think she is handling his death well.”

How are you supposed to be handling the death of someone you have known practically your entire life? What are they expecting from you? Why won’t they just let you be you?

Although the intent is to help, sometimes loved ones hurt us while trying to be supportive. Even so, you do not have to deny or attempt to mask your feelings. Despite the stages in the grief process, no one deals with it exactly the same way. It is up to you to be as authentic with yourself about how you feel.

As Thanksgiving approaches, take preventative steps to keep yourself from having a social breakdown.

YOU decide if you want to attend the family dinner or have visitors.
So you won’t have to keep ignoring those phone calls and texts, let your family know what your plans are and ask them to respect your decision.

YOU establish a boundary for yourself.
If you choose to attend family gatherings this holiday, don’t just ignore the sidebar chatter. When you hear unpleasant conversations about you, do not be afraid to let the person(s) know that you did not appreciate it and it is not helping your situation. You don’t have to start a scene, but you can kindly thank them for their concerns while standing your ground.

YOU are responsible for your well-being.
Life is for the living. And as difficult as it is to live without loved ones, they would want you to continue living. You have a responsibility to take care of yourself and even to check in with family and friends every now and then to let them know you are okay. Maybe after responding to that one phone call or text, ask that person to inform the others.

YOU have to give yourself permission to grieve this holiday.
If this will be your first holiday without your spouse, sibling or parent, you might feel the obligation to be strong for everyone else. But you have to give yourself permission to cry, to talk, to be silent, to be angry, to be disappointed, to be confused or to be numb. You have to be your truth. It is a part of the process.

YOU just remember that you have a support system a phone call away. And when you don’t want to talk to family or friends but find yourself needing to vent without being criticized, dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Give yourself permission to LIVE.


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