I love the holidays, all the rituals and customs – the way it touches a place inside of us and makes us sparkle. It’s how I felt before my husband died more than twenty years ago, and it’s how I feel now.
However, when Jim died, in late October, right before the holidays, I felt as if I would never be able to get through the holiday season that began a month later with Thanksgiving, continuing on to Christmas and the celebration of a New Year. Eventually I was able to feel the joy and sparkle again, but it took time. What helped me during the holidays the first few years was to create rituals that honored our continuing bond of love.
I bought a beautiful big white candle with silver stars embedded in the side. I’d light it every night and watch the flame flicker while the candle glowed and the stars twinkled. It became a tangible symbol of our connection.
This has been such a difficult year.
Not only for people whose loved ones have died, but for the many who have suffered great loss from natural disasters like the fires in California, hurricanes around the world, and the deep grief we feel with the victims of the mass shootings in the United States. It’s been a tumultuous year as anyone who reads the headlines knows.
The holidays can be overwhelming for many of us, especially if we are grieving. This holiday season I want to remind you that no matter where you are in your grieving, be compassionate towards yourself. Give yourself time if you need it.
We all try so hard for others, why can’t we try hard for ourselves too? There were many occasions when I had to take a break and step back, even if it was to just go the restroom for a few minutes, where I could cry, take some deep breaths, and remind myself it was okay to not be okay. It was also okay to smile and welcome a happy moment.
A NEW, free, 5-part video series
about grief and healing with Debbie Augenthaler.
Words of Comfort is a free, five part video series I’m offering to help anyone who is grieving.
In it, I share some of the insights and things I’ve learned both as a griever and as a psychotherapist who’s worked with many grieving people. I hope this series brings you the comfort of knowing that you are not alone.
What I’m Reading:
Last year at this time I shared this beautiful book, When Breath Becomes Air. The author, Dr. Paul Kalanithi, sent his best friend an email in May 2013 revealing that he had terminal cancer. He wrote: “The good news is that I’ve already outlived two Brontës, Keats and Stephen Crane. The bad news is that I haven’t written anything.”
His gift to all of us is that he did write this extraordinary book in the last year of his life. While learning how to die, Paul Kalanithi teaches us how to live.
This beautiful book has become a favorite of mine.
Simple techniques for relieving anxiety, stress, and overwhelm.
Almost everyone experiences anxiety – especially when grieving. So I’ve created the Toolbox Series – helpful videos with tools to bring you back into your body whenever you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed.
My favorite for this time of year is the Alternate Hand Clasp, because this technique is so simple and can even be used under the table during large gatherings – a time when many of us feel anxious. The video is only 3:30 long, and you can find it and the other videos in the series including the Butterfly Hug, the most popular technique of the series, with over 11,000 views here on my website.
Did you know my book is not only available in print, but also in Kindle and audiobook? It’s a wonderful gift for anyone in your life who is grieving and for those who want to help.
You can find it online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
I leave you with this quote from Craig D. Lounsbrough:
“The priceless lesson in the New Year is that endings birth beginnings and beginnings birth endings.
And in this elegantly choreographed dance of life,
neither ever find an end in the other.”
Debbie Augenthaler, LMHC, NCC, is an author and psychotherapist in private practice in New York City, where she specializes in trauma, grief and loss. Her award-winning book, You Are Not Alone: A Heartfelt Guide for Grief, Healing, and Hope combines her personal story of devastating loss with practical insights and simple suggestions for healing. Join her Facebook community, Grief to Gratitude, and follow her on Instagram.