As we move into the holidays, I ask you to remember that grief is not just an emotional experience. Oh, I am aware that emotions play a major role in our inner worlds right now. This is a truth.

Along with the emotional roller coaster, there are other ways that grief affects us. Grief affects us mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually.

Mentally – so for example, perhaps right now you are more forgetful, or you are having a harder time focusing on something. Perhaps right now, it is more difficult to process information. The stress of Christmas, along with our experience of grief, can bring back those first days of grieving. Our brains just don’t work as well. This is normal.

Sometimes, what we think about, what we feel, can put another layer on our grief. If we are beating ourselves up because we are sad, or because our tolerance level is lower. If our inner critic is telling us that this isn’t acceptable, this will make our grief feel more intense. So be gentle with yourself. Our tolerance level is lower now, this too is normal. We can hold space for our sadness, Christmas points out the absence. This makes us sad. Give yourself the space to cry.

Physically – It takes a lot of energy to grieve. If you are finding that you are tired more, that you can’t get the things done you used to at this time… this too is normal. Give yourself permission to rest.

Our immune systems are not as robust when we grieve. Remember to eat food, to drink water, and to get rest. We are more susceptible to the germs floating around us.

Socially – my friend once said to me, “I will get in my car to go out, I force myself to see people because I know I need to, but I always give myself permission to turn around and go home if I feel like I can’t do it.”

I love that she knows how to meet her needs and is self aware enough to know that it is okay to change her mind. Remember that. It is okay for you to change your mind. Sometimes being social is just what we need and sometime we need to be alone and reflect. Sometimes we just don’t have the energy to be with people. Remember, most of our energy goes towards grieving.

Remember that you are unique, and so your grief is yours. If being social is what helps you, then go for it. If not, take some time alone. Give yourself permission to be mindful of your own needs.

Spiritually – Some people find great solace and peace in their spiritual beliefs. Their faith is what sustains them through their grief. It is what keeps them strong. Some people question everything in their grief. What is the meaning of this, why, how could this happen.

Both ways are acceptable. Give yourself permission with your beliefs to question and to hold your faith as your pillar. Either way is okay. The important thing is to be kind and gentle with yourself if you are feeling shaky in this. Allow yourself to be true to what you need at this time.

Alan Wolfelt says, “You have a right to grieve.” Even now in this time of “good cheer and joy.” Remember, you have a right to grieve, and remember that grief shows up in many different ways. Give yourself the space to care for yourself now. Be a little bit selfish. You are worth it.

Denise Torgerson
Community Programs