Now that it’s December, the holiday season is officially among many of us. Starbucks has reintroduced their holiday cups, Hallmark is airing white-washed Christmas cliches 24/7, and Christmas songs are inescapable on the radio and in stores. In many ways, holiday festivities are shoved down your throat constantly. The problem is that it’s easily forgotten that the holidays are not always a cheerful time for everyone.
For a lot of people, myself included, the holidays are a time where family gathers together to celebrate and exchange gifts. And for a lot of people, myself included, the family they are celebrating with this year may be missing a member or two. Grieving the loss of a loved one can take a lot of time and the holidays may be a particularly rough patch: the empty chair at the table will be noticed, the absence of their voice will be noticed.
The neighbor’s Christmas lights may just look annoying now, you may no longer want to sing along with Mariah Carey, and shopping for gifts feels like a trivial chore. You just want the holidays to come and go and get them over with; you don’t even care about celebrating this year. Don’t feel bad for not being more festive, more celebratory. There’s no rule that says your mourning has to be put on pause to celebrate a holiday. And if you’re someone who isn’t grieving this holiday season, do everyone that is a favor and don’t call us a “Grinch” or a “Scrooge.” We’re doing the best we can.
You may devour the Christmas specials on TV hour after hour, you may blast Christmas music on your way to school every morning, and bake cookies by the dozens. You throw yourself whole-heartedly into the festivities the way you always have, if not more so. Don’t feel bad for not being more solemn, more upset. There’s no rule that says your holiday has to be put on pause to mourn the loss of someone. And if you’re someone who isn’t grieving this holiday season, do everyone that is a favor and don’t say how hard it must be for us this holiday. We’re doing the best we can.
There’s no “wrong” way to grieve, and everyone copes with grief differently, particularly during the holidays. The important thing to recognize is that everyone’s mourning is valid during the holidays, regardless of how it manifests. The first holiday missing a close loved one is always hard and it’s never fair to fault yourself or anyone else for the way they celebrate (or don’t celebrate) it.