Holiday Grieving


By Vivianne A. Griffiths , MSN, APRN, CCLC

So, here we are at the holidays. For many it will be a busy time with fun gatherings, special preparations and of course, shopping and money angst.   But not for you. Maybe it’s different for the first time or different at this time each year, because you are experiencing grief. Grief is a natural response to a loss of anything that is valued. The loss could be a job or other opportunity, or an unfulfilled expectation like marriage or childbirth. However, let’s focus on the loss of a loved one.

Maybe there is a carryover from another season – Sadness permeates you, and perhaps other family members. Your feelings are inconsistent with the festive dates on the calendar.

The jubilance of the holidays doesn’t match your inner barometer. To your mind it is mostly cloudy with a chance of rain. Physically your head and heart are heavy and your get up and go, got up and left.

If you have uninterrupted sleep at all during a recent death, you may awaken hoping it was all a bad dream. However, upon awakening reality confirms that your loss is real. Whether it was an anticipated death or sudden unexpected one, that will also impact how you respond.

The late psychiatrist, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross M.D.  defined the 5 Stages of Grief: shock/denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages don’t necessarily occur in the order that it is listed, and may actually overlap or shift.  Grief that is ignored and not worked through, may lead to a condition called Complicated Grief.

Don’t rush your grief process, it is different for everyone. It is fine to cry; it is healing– the tears of someone who is grieving is different compared to crying over a sappy movie or laughing until you cry.  In the article, “The Health Benefits of Tears” In Psychology Today magazine July 27, 2010, Dr. Judith Orloff states that our body produces 3 types of tears, and that  “tears are your body’s release valve for stress, sadness, grief, anxiety and frustration…for both men and women, tears are a sign of courage, strength and authenticity.”

Dr. William Frey, “tear expert” found that “emotional tears release stress hormones and other toxins that accumulate during stress.” Other studies “suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural pain killer and “feel-good” hormones.”

This is not to take lightly the pain of your grief, but to encourage you to reflect on the lost relationship and what it meant to you, and the effect on your feelings.

  •  What does this loss mean in your own personal growth? What new challenges will you face?
  • Who can support you during this time?
  • Would quiet time in prayer, meditation, writing, etc. help lighten your day?
  • How can understanding the purpose of this loss eventually strengthen you, or someone else?
  • What free/low cost self – care activities can you do on a daily basis?
  • Could you have a memorial service to commemorate the deceased?

So at this time when you want or need to pull away from the activities of the season, be reassured it is necessary for you to heal.

Lifting you in Spirit, until the next time.

Vivianne A. Griffiths M.S.N. is a Nurse Practitioner and Certified as a Christian Life Coach (CCLC) and Teen Wisdom, Inc. Life Coach for teen girls.  Both coaching programs are certified by the  International Coach Federation. She is the Founder and CEO of Arise and Go Forth, LLC Life Coaching for Teen girls and Women. She can be reached for coaching appointments or speaking engagements through her website or via email at