Eleanor and I had been feeling like we had said just about everything there was to say about grieving at the holidays and then yesterday our facebook page blew up with people discussing the first holidays after a loss not being the hardest. The consensus was that this was common and yet totally unexpected for many grievers who just assumed that by year 2 the holidays should be a whole lot easier. Suddenly we realize, no, we had not yet posted about everything because we have never written about that! Today’s post will be short and sweet, but I felt like someone needed to say one thing loud and clear before Christmas and New Year’s are upon us: the first holidays are NOT always the worst. Sometimes they are, sometimes they are not, but just know if this holiday is feeling even worse than the first holiday after your loss, that is totally normal. And when you think about why, it kinda makes sense.
Though there can be a zillion reasons year 2+ may be worse than year 1, a couple big factors come to mind:
- The first holidays were a blur. This is often true, but especially when you lost your loved one in the latter part of the year. Everything is a blur, holidays included, so as hard as it was your mind and body may have still been in a shocked state, protecting you just a bit as you muddled through the holidays.
- You cut yourself a break during the first holidays. We know it will be hard and people will (hopefully) be understanding, so it is easier to say no to certain events, skip certain traditions and find support around us. By holiday 2 we may be finding it harder to say no in the same way. Remember, there is no set timeline for grief. You have just as much of a right to cut yourself some slack in year 2 as you do in year 1!
- During the first holidays other people gave you a pass. Early on after a loss we often get lots of support and understanding. This includes during the first holiday season, during which others are most likely to support us doing what we need for ourselves. In year 2 and beyond people may not be quite as understanding during the holidays. Though it can be easier said than done, try not to let those around you pressure you.
- The holidays stop being polite and start getting real. On our facebook page several people commented that the 2nd year was when it became real that their loved one was truly gone and their holidays would never look and feel exactly the same again. This of course does not mean the holidays can’t still be wonderful, but it does mean they will always be at least a little hard, different and bittersweet. For whatever reason, that reality doesn’t always set in during year one, but it can hit us like a ton of bricks in year 2, 3 or even beyond.
- You thought you would be in a better place this year. During holiday 1 you may have skipped things altogether, taken a break, scrapped some stressful holiday stuff, all the while telling yourself you would get it together next year. Well, now it is next year and you are not nearly as ‘together’ as you thought you would be. You have the pain of the holidays and now you are beating yourself up that you aren’t where you thought you would be.
This is usually the point in a post when we give you some practical ideas on how to cope, but we have about a zillion other posts about dealing with the holidays. You can read our most recent post on having a happy-sad holiday here, or check out all our past holiday posts here. The most important thing to remember if your holiday is feeling harder than your first holiday: you are not alone, you are not weird, you are not crazy, you are not grieving wrong, and you are still entitled to cut yourself all the slack you need.
Sending all our good thoughts to get through the holidays and maybe-hopefully find just a little joy and gratitude along way.
As always, leave a comment to let us know your thoughts. How was your first holiday? How is your holiday this year?