Navigating Holiday Grief

Navigating Holiday Grief

Navigating Holiday Grief 900 600 Mackensey Smith

Navigating Holiday Grief 

December 2, 2019

For many of us, holiday time is often characterized by emergence of old wounds, attempting to implement the boundaries you have worked so hard for with the people who rub you the most, and a lot of emotional eating. Okay, maybe it’s not that dramatic and there is certainly a plethora of joys to be had, but there have definitely been seasons where holidays are my biggest pain point. Navigating holiday grief has been in the forefront for me this current season.

At the beginning of my healing journey, I had to start changing my codependent behaviors that were firmly keeping me within the unhealthy dynamics of my family. Holidays were the testing grounds to see what work was paying off. I have come to accept and prepare for the season knowing that I need to bring my backpack full of extra self-love and compassion.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the wave of grief that washed over me last week. I was sitting around the breakfast table with my family this Thanksgiving and for a moment time slowed. I felt at once deep love and also a sadness that had floating roots. My heart was tender. I was no longer the same Mackensey who was okay playing the family role she grew up in, I had healed to the point where I had belonging in my heart and boundaries that my family respected. And yet, there was a lingering ache for the belonging that the old dynamic provided. That belonging, however dysfunctional, was gone and I was left at once ecstatic yet wondering if I had made the right choice. An experience of grief.

How Grief can show up during the Holidays:

  • Being reminded of what was lost in childhood (innocence, dreams, sense of self, love)
  • Sadness for being estranged or unable to be with family for whatever reason
  • Boundaries being violated and memories of past violations resurface in turn
  • Boundaries respected and grieving the belonging once found in the dysfunction
  • Healing you have done not being recognized or even patronized
  • Changing of relationships to loved ones as we change (for better or worse, both lead to grieving)
  • Feeling like an “outsider,” especially if you have been working to heal family wounds
  • The grief that comes with acceptance of family just as they are and letting go of the dream of them “fixing” the past.

Want to work with me to navigate what’s coming up for you this holiday season? I still have some openings for private sessions this month so reach out and we will make it happen!

So what do you do when grief shows up?

Grief indicates healing and is a healthy human response to change. It means you are allowing yourself to fully feel, to love deeply, and be shaped into who you are meant to be. When I sat around that table and time slowed, I was feeling fully. I was fully alive in that moment. Compassion, joy, gratitude, sadness, trepidation, and tenderness were all awakened in that experience. Feeling that fullness and not dissociating or trying to change it was the reward of my healing work. 

Grief is apart of the journey of healing as much as anything else, if not more. The healthy human response to loss and change is to mourn. If you know anything about me, you know that I am a huge advocate for feeling it all. Because the more you are willing to bring in awareness, the richer and more fulfilled your life will be. So lets look at how you can work with it when it arises.

1. Ground in the Heart.

If you haven’t already, do the daily work of loving yourself. Belonging is the antidote to isolating family encounters, and the type of belonging that is sustaining is the portable type. The belonging found within your own heart, your soul. The belonging that comes when you are willing to start loving yourself. Letting that love guide you to the knowing that you belong to the Universe and there is nothing you can do about it!

Start looking at what you love about you, make a list, carry it in your pocket during the holidays. Or better yet keep it on your phone! Then, engage with the body to make that mind/body connection. Make it stick! You can have all the answers in the world, but if you aren’t embodying those answers then you are half-in and half-out always. My go-to for this is Breathwork but you find what works for you! (My 5-Minute Heart Opening Breathwork Meditation is a great place to start.)

2. Have a plan. 

Have your people on speed dial. Perhaps it’s the one friend who gets it. Or the teacher whom you know will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to. Find a person or a few who you know you can call and have that ready. Excuse yourself at any time to step outside or run to the bathroom to get some support from your community. We don’t have to do anything alone.

3. Be with the experience as fully as you can. 

Don’t run from the feelings, rather have a tool in place you can use to work with what came up. Whether that is a meditation practice, purging your experience in the notepad on your phone, or making an appointment with your favorite healer. Show up for you. Continue to show up for you. Grief is not a straight line and in reality there is no getting “through” it back to how things were. The other side is transformation and the more we are willing to move into it, the more we are assisting that transformation to take place with ease and joy. In all pain, there are lessons to be learned. And don’t forget, joy and grief can and do exist simultaneously! Navigating holiday grief can be a rewarding healing experience if approached with compassion and curiosity. If you try any of these let me know! I always love to hear your experiences and questions. And if you want to learn more about how I can assist you during this time, I got you 😉

Want to work with me to navigate what’s coming up for you this holiday season? I still have some openings for private sessions this month so reach out and we will make it happen!

All my Love,

Mackensey