By Katya Sivak, Registered Clinical Counsellor

Holiday Grief Facing loss and living with grief over loved ones who have died can be heartbreakingly painful during the holiday season. Our society urges us to deal with grief and many of us believe that we need to get over it. Grief is often thought of in terms of saying goodbye, letting go, rejecting ongoing relationship with the dead, and emotional severing of the relationship between the deceased and the bereaved.

This perspective of grief overemphasizes the finality of death and often worsens rather then eases the pain of loss. As a registered clinical counsellor in private practice, I challenge the popular belief that we must “let go” and forget those who have died. I believe that instead of “saying goodbye” and completing the unfinished business with your loved ones, you can find ways in which you can maintain or even foster a positive relationship with your loved one even after their death.

Although it is impossible to bring your loved one actually back to life, you do have power to bring them back into your life. In my counselling practice I find that people who lost a loved one appreciate it when in our sessions we focus on ways of maintaining the emotional connection to the person who died. Clients report a sense of relief and lightness in their hearts when they find ways of bringing their departed ones back in to their lives by telling stories or finding meaningful ways of expressing ongoing feelings.

Ask yourself “What would my loved one want me to do to honour them?”

Maybe it’s wearing a piece of their jewelry to keep them close? Maybe it’s donating to charity in their memory? Or taking a family out for a snow fight up in the mountains, because that’s what they loved to do.

In my family, we bake an apple pie for my husband’s late great-grandmother’s birthday. You might prepare something they liked or you might cook their favourite food. The important thing is to remember the memories and share.

Focus this holiday season on celebrating the continuation of your loved ones life story rather than dwelling on the finality of death. My clients have taught me that a one of the most powerful things you can do is share the memorieswith other family members and friends. It ok to smile, laugh, and cry.

The power of the story can transcend physical mortality and keep your loved one in your heart and in many ways in your life. I find that when we think about ways of keeping our loved ones in our lives, the possibilities are only limitless.

I am always honored to facilitate the process of designing new traditions and rituals with my clients. After all, we all experienced losses. We all grieve. But it does not have to be forever painful. Living with loss is about honoring and cherishing memories and relationships that are still there, still significant and still available.


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