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The Holidays and the Innertube of Grief

As we approach the winter holiday season, we are bombarded with images on television, media outlets, and social media of families gathering around the table, laughing, talking, and maybe even bickering. We are even aware and forewarned about how to avoid that annoying distant relative who we see only once a year during this time of year.

But for many people who have experienced significant loss, the approaching holidays are some of the darkest days of the year. Loss of a parent, child, spouse, sibling, friend. The loss of a marriage, or having their child present during the holidays. For them, this holiday season is a reminder of that loss and what will never be again.

Many are familiar with the grieving process and the various stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But the idea of it being process suggests that one day there will be an end to experiencing those stages. I like the analogy that was once shared with me, that grief is like a big innertube surrounding your body. Sometimes it is tight around your body and you can feel it touch your skin. When the tube is contracted around, you are drawn back into one or more of those stages of grief. Other times the innertube of grief is expanded so that you can no longer feel it against your body. When it’s expanded, you may feel in a very good place mentally, but the grief, or innertube, is still there surrounding you. For people who have lost, that innertube may very well stay expanded, yet for others, that innertube will continue to contract and expand throughout their lives.

If you are someone who experienced loss this year, you are very likely feeling that innertube starting to press against your skin. Lean into your support system this season. If you do not have one, reach out to a mental health professional or a support group. Try to create a new tradition like traveling somewhere beautiful or relaxing, gathering with friends, or do something else that will simply make you feel good.

If you feel like you need help during this holiday season and do not know to whom or where to reach, please contact one or more of the following resources:

Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center: https://grassrootscrisis.org/
NAMI Howard County: https://namihowardcounty.org/
Maryland Crisis Hotline: 1-800-422-0009