The Grieving Process After Losing A Loved One Is Heartbreaking

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The grieving process after losing a loved one is heartbreaking and unpredictable. It's important to recognize that grief and the holidays are a hard mix.

holidays and grief

What If There Is Not A Real Process In The Grieving Process

The first holiday after losing a loved one is known to be a hard place to be. People often say that the first year after loss is the hardest and that getting through the first special occasion, the first birthday, the first Christmas after loss are all "milestones" to brace yourself for that are part of the grieving process. But what if there is not a real grieving process, at least not a linear one? On VProud there is a thought-provoking video and conversation about the grieving process suggesting that you can't really put a timeline on pain, it does not expire. Mother and writer Andrea Bates reflects on this topic as someone who is still grieving well beyond the first holiday after loss. Her post is a thoughtful and reflective beneath the surface look at what grieving looks like long term and it is a must read.

—The VProud Team

the grieving process after losing a loved one
That’s not how grief works: Can you put a timeline on pain?

By Andrea Bates For VProud

Losing someone you love stings. Death is a smack in the face to the life you thought you had. It's a reminder that we have less control than we think we do. 

Pretty heavy, I know. But oh, so very true. 

In October 2013 my father passed away unexpectedly. It's a day I'll never forget. Just writing those words brings back a flood of emotions. Confusion, fear, anger, sadness. Complete devastation. These are things I feel nearly every day since his passing. 

But there is something about the holidays that makes me feel his absence that much more. 

This time of the year is a time for family. And when you've lost a family member the holidays change. It's weird to say they lose something, but that's kind of what it feels like. Like you can't put your finger on it. You know something's off. Missing. 

And then it hits you. It's not something. It's someone. You're grieving. And the holidays are here. And it hurts. It doesn't matter how many years have passed. Grief has no timeline. It's not supposed to. You can't spend your entire life knowing someone, loving someone, and simply move forward without missing them. You don't have to feel it every day. You don't have to cry all the time. And it doesn't matter if the person you've lost loved the holiday season. What matters is that your heart feels the loss more intensely this time of the year. 

 My father and Chanukah were connected by wire. It wasn't a string. No thread held them together. They were bound together by wire and glue and bolts and more. Having this holiday year after year, without the man who taught me how to celebrate, taught me what to appreciate … the man whose voice wrapped up every aspect of this season for me. Without him – what do the holidays even mean? 

It's only been three Chanukahs. Three. That seems like the smallest of numbers. One. Two. Three. That first year without him hurt so badly it was as if I couldn't breathe. Last year was just as hard. Tears flowed. I ached. This year – I recite words to a tune that he led, a tune he may have even made up. The highs, the lows, I hear his voice as if he were right there with me. My own voice cracks and my daughter comforts me. That's right. My 8-year-old puts her arm around me and knows that these are the moments he is missing. And it is not fair. And we miss him terribly.

And so I grieve. And somehow I celebrate. Because I know that's what he would want me to do. 

I know he'd want me to teach my daughter the blessings, even when I'm not sure if I'm making up some of the words. I know he'd want me to remember each moment. He'd want me to hold onto the years gone by and find ways to savor these days and hold onto the memories as I create new ones.

And so I do. Or I try to. Because despite the effort, sometimes it hurts too much. And that's okay. I'm allowed to feel the pain. Because losing someone you love is awful. It's the kind of experience that can drain the motivation right out of you. 

Grief doesn't take breaks. It sticks with you. Reminding you of what used to be. It's up to you to navigate through it. And sometimes that means wallowing in the hurt. And sometimes that means plastering on a smile – or maybe even enjoying yourself. You're allowed to smile and laugh and have fun, during the holidays and every day. It's a difficult line to straddle, the one where you're still missing your loved one and trying to live your life. It's a blessing in and of itself when you feel enough joy to make you smile so hard your eyes crinkle. It's in moments like those where I look at myself and push back any guilt. Because these are the moments we live for. The moments we love. These are the ways we keep the memory of those we lost alive. These are the ways we move forward through our grief and find ourselves on the other side of the holiday season. Survivors. 

andrea bates vproud
About the author: Andrea Bates lives in North Carolina with her husband, daughter, and four fur-babies. She has been published on sites such as Midlife Boulevard, Kveller, ScaryMommy, and Postpartum Progress, but can regularly be found sharing her deepest thoughts on motherhood, mental health, family, relationships, reading, and more at goodgirlgoneredneck.comAn LCSW, she spends much of her free time volunteering for organizations that support women through the early days of motherhood and advocating for mental health related causes. Follow Andrea on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and join Andrea's honest conversations on VProud.

Join This Honest Conversation

the first holiday after loss
That’s not how grief works: Can you put a timeline on pain?

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