Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a health care professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.
The holidays mean sharing meals, giving gifts and sending greetings to family and friends.
If you’ve lost someone, this can make the season the saddest time of the year. Everyone else seems to be in a festive mood, and you feel like you just don’t fit in. This sense of alienation adds to the burden of grief and encourages isolation.
You can help yourself and others by setting a place at your table for the bereaved, the recently divorced, and anyone who’s hurting around the holidays.
Don’t avoid contact thinking that one person’s low energy will spoil the mood; if the mood is that fragile, excluding the bereaved won’t protect it!
Accept the fact that life’s joyous moments are always punctuated by sorrow, whether acknowledged or not. There’s nothing unnatural about an island of suffering in an apparent sea of celebration.
Joy is to sorrow as yang is to yin. There’s some of each in the other, and balance requires the presence of both. Instead of trying to ignore sad memories by sitting out the holidays, let this be a special time to celebrate those who’ve passed from your life.
There’s nothing wrong with setting a place at the table for someone who’s not there, or hanging a stocking for them, or setting up a photo of them in a prominent place. You can also create a ritual to honor the past year’s losses, such as lighting a candle for each one.
If doing these things makes you feel sad, it only means you’ve gotten in touch with another layer of your loss. Allow sadness to surface if it wants to; the actual pain will be momentary, not permanent.
When it passes you’ll feel a little bit lighter. A space will have been cleared for joy to enter.
Tina Gilbertson is a mental health counselor with a private practice. She can be reached through her website, www.TinaGilbertson.com, or by phone at 503.544.6179.