How to deal with grief through the holidays

It’s that time of year again, where family gathers and Christmas movies are on every channel. Everyone’s baking Christmas cookies and having to frantically clean the house for guests. It seems all cookie-cutter perfect, but the reality is not like the Hallmark movies.

In 2017, my dad died. I was a sophomore in high school. Not only did I lose him, I lost his entire family and my dog. After his death, his family shut me out completely. The last time I spoke to anyone from his side was after the funeral and viewing. All of this was two years ago, and still I struggle to not think about what I lost.

I remember how it all played out perfectly in my head — it played on repeat for so long I can’t remember. It still plays with clarity, it’s something I will never forget. I found out on my school’s spring break period. Being frank, I don’t remember much from that week.

I remember bits and pieces. I remember crying and watching “Moana” and “Beauty and the Beast.” I remember going to Somerset mall at one point. I remember my mom emailing my counselor at the time and I remember her telling my teachers. 

I remember struggling through most days during school, but one day stands out the most — my aunt told me I wasn’t allowed to see my grandma, and I later found out she meant everyone, not just my grandma.

I went to therapy, I went to a grief and loss group at my high school and I spoke to people regularly about what I was feeling. 

The holidays are the worst, because that’s when it hits the hardest. I remember the last Christmas I spent with him and his side of the family. It plays on repeat in my head, and often makes any holidays or special occasions difficult to bear.

I wish I could say I’ve found some amazing way to deal with this grief that never seems to pass. Every year I think about my 16th birthday, and how he missed that milestone. During my high school graduation, I thought about how he wasn’t there. How, on my first day of college, he wasn’t there. 

I try to not think about it — is it mentally healthy and fool-proof? No. Would I recommend it? No. The best way to deal with it is to talk about it, not keep it bottled up inside. Trust me, I tried that, and it was awful.

The holidays are supposed to be about what you’re thankful for, to be surrounded by friends and family. Well, if you’re like me, this time of year can make you feel isolated and alone, even if you’re surrounded by people. 

If you’re like me, and you’ve lost a parent, a friend, anyone, know you aren’t alone. People say time heals all, but they don’t say how much time it will take for you to feel whole again. Your feelings are valid, and I understand them. 

If you or someone you know struggles with this, or struggles with the holidays, email me at [email protected].