We can get quite off balance in our life when there is a significant loss and time seems to stand still. We seem to stand still, even though we get through the day to day. One topic that can usually exacerbate the stress for clients I see during the holidays is the impact of losing a significant other. Whether this loss came from a break up, divorce, or death, grief is experienced similarly in all cases. Grief can be re-experienced during significant times of the year (especially holidays) no matter the length of time that the relationship has ended. However, the intensity of the grief usually subsides with time and depends on the significance of the relationship. Without getting into too much detail about the journey of grieving, I would like to share some thoughts about moving through the holidays while dealing with the loss of a significant relationship.
Initially we may feel like the world is upside down. Getting it back right side up is a part of grieving. In order to get things right side up again, we must be able to accept the reality of the loss and work through the pain of the loss. We do these things by having a funeral, getting rid of an ex-partner's belongings, or talking about the loved one in past tense. We also get through our grief by acknowledging and accepting our intense pain from the loss and how we are impacted by the loss. This may be hard to do, especially during the holidays. However, we can start to do this by sharing memories about holidays with the significant other, writing a letter to express our feelings, or sharing our feelings with someone we trust. And if all fails, eating lots of sweets/comfort food can also help us get through this holiday.
When you are feeling like your world is back right side up, then you're ready to take the final steps in moving forward. These steps include adjusting to a new reality without the person and creating a new meaning for your life now that incorporates the end of that relationship. We take steps in moving forward by doing things for ourselves that were once done for us by our loved one, praying, or making connections with new/old friends. Lastly, we move forward by acknowledging our eternal connection with that significant person for the time we were together, and creating new rituals in our lives that includes that person's memory/significance of their life on us. Ex: going to their favorite restaurant and ordering something completely new; making their Thanksgiving specialty dish with a twist; celebrating the holidays in a new location.
Although there are many different ways we grieve and different things we can do to work through that grief, the tasks listed above are the essential tasks we work through. I gave examples of getting through each task, but it doesn't encompass the wide range of things that we may do to grieve. It also does not capture the duration of grief because grief does not have a specific time frame. However, we still do our best to get through the holidays and move forward on our own time.