I find major holidays can be a trigger to remind me of loved ones gone. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. If I’m not mindful of this trigger I can get what I call the ‘Holiday Blues’. Instead of feeling celebratory I find myself treating the holiday as just another day without… Perhaps you get the idea.
My dad passed away on February 2nd of this year. We were able to plan and have a funeral service and a repast. There wasn’t any talk of a pandemic at that time. I returned to work the Monday following the service. Work would take my mind from my recent loss, or so I thought. Off and on I found myself pushing back tears that occurred at the oddest of times: during my drive to work, amid conversation with my clients or while watching tv.
Then the pandemic became real and our counties were shutting down. This invisible disease had taken over our lives and people were dying. We had to wear masks, wash our hands thoroughly and distance ourselves 6ft from people. Because I work as a caregiver, I went directly home after my shifts and stayed there until the next days’ shift began. And when I was off from work, I stayed home as much as possible. I couldn’t risk getting exposed and exposing my clients. After a few months I recognized I had not been myself. I had been eating anything I wanted, I forgot to take my medication daily, I didn’t even think about checking my blood sugar, I was crying more often and had no idea why.
You see, I had not taken the time to grieve. My dad was the last parent I had. We were very close. I took care of him for four years before he passed. And yet once he was gone, I threw myself into work, and food, TV binging. Anything to push away the feelings that were trying to surface. I came to realize I was doing the same thing I did when my mother passed; trying desperately not to feel.
You cannot run away from grief. It is a process that requires your time and attention. If you bottle it up it or ignore it, it will explode like a shaken soda bottle. That is what happened to me. My emotions surfaced with a vengeance screaming to be acknowledged. And I had to deal with it. Instead of pushing away what I thought would be too painful to handle, I welcomed it. I allowed myself to feel. I allowed myself to say out loud – “I miss my dad”. And as the months passed, I could say, “I miss my dad” without crying.
It has been ten months since my father’s passing. His birthday was in September. It was a day like any other for me. Thanksgiving came along. The first major holiday without him. My sister and I spoke about him and laughed over good times. And now Christmas is coming, I have been thinking of him more often, and I tear up a little but that’s okay. Grief takes time there’s good days and some sorrowful days, but the sorrow is only there because he is not present.
Allow yourself to grieve. It is not something that can be rushed. Allow yourself to feel whether it is anger, or sorrow, process it. Go through it. And if you need help getting through, ask! I did. I talked to a professional and got help processing my emotions. It felt good to talk with someone objective and a non-family member. And I was prepared to face the current holidays not feeling the loss so much but remembering happier times with my dad.