As the holiday approaches and families start to gather, I think about the one person who will no longer gather with us but is still so much in our hearts. I think of those who also are navigating life within their own grief. The holidays seem to be harder to manage grief when we are gathered with our loved ones but our heart is still missing the greatest piece. When you experience a death, sometimes you hear “as time goes on, it will be easier” and you hold on to those words. As your journey continues, you realize that it really never gets easier, it hurts as much as it did the day you lost your loved one but you learn to manage and survive the heartache.

During the holiday season so many emotions come to the surface because the sadness settles for the season, things remind you of what used to be and sometimes our hearts sit with that, hoping those days could return. As your journey with grief is completely yours, peace and joy are allowed during these times too, don’t forget that! We are allowed to feel happiness and sadness at the same time. You may make your thanksgiving plate and feel the emotions run over you. There is no right, there is no wrong when it comes to grief. ​

We are on our two-year walk with grief and the holidays for us mean a time to bring happiness to our family and to those we love. Our grief is never dull and never gone. Once you’re touched by grief, it stays with you;  however, for us, we talk about him every day, we include him in everything that we do. We feel him with us and in everything we do. That doesn’t mean that the days don’t hurt, especially the holidays.

Tips for making the most of the holidays while dealing with a great loss or helping someone that has lost:
Number 1. “We rise by lifting others.” – Robert Ingersoll.
Sometimes we feel so many personal feelings that focusing on other people during the holiday can lift your heart. I have connected with others that have lost a loved one and it brings my heart so much joy to be a support for others. How can you help?
-Donate a wreath to Wreaths across America; so many grieving families end up there during their holidays.
-Take cookies to a family that needs cheering up
– A surprise gift to someone who has to buy for their entire family but the person who would buy their gift is no longer there
– My biggest suggestion is to make sure someone knows that their loved one is remembered

Number 2. It’s not just the first Holiday season that hurts.
Remember those who have lost a loved one every season of every year. Time does not heal our hearts and a lot of times those who have lost can struggle with feeling alone. As life moves forward and the lives of those around us continue in the same motion they always have, ours is still taking baby steps to move forward. Sometimes we just need a friend to remind us that we are seen and loved. We never want to be a burden to another however, our hearts have not healed.

Number 3. You can say “NO”
This is big! It’s not rude, it’s not insensitive. To survive grief, boundaries have to be set. Invite them to the holiday parties and family gatherings, include them! If they say no or if you need to say no then say it! Tell those people who plan to come but say they can’t make it or those who just say no that you are here, you love them and that you understand.

Number 4. “Grieving during the holidays can create isolation”
Similar to number 3, I know. However, because we said no doesn’t mean we want to be alone. We may not specifically ask for company but having someone care means more to us than you could imagine. If you have time this holiday season, visit someone that has lost a loved one. If you have lost a loved one see if you can connect with someone that has lost a loved one too, it never hurts to give time to someone even when they didn’t ask.

Jessica Jarrell is a girl mom living in Richmond, VA. She lost her husband and enjoys sharing her heart with those that may be in a similar situation.