I’m so very sorry for your loss. Whether it happened yesterday or what feels like lifetimes ago, it can feel daunting to face the festive season and start of another year without your loved one by your side. Grief, in its plethora of forms, never takes a break—even on the merriest days of the year.
Surviving the holidays is hard enough thanks to the standard year-end rush, but it can feel all the more pointless and destabilising when your anchors of security, love and hope are unmoored by grief. So how is one to dodge the tangible reminders that exist in your memory like booby-traps? Vogue Singapore speaks to three experts on navigating and surviving all types of grief during the holidays.
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1. Drop your mask
In fear of bringing the down the mood, you may think it better to put on a brave face. Don’t, says this expert.
“Acknowledge your grief with self-compassion instead of putting on a mask to hide those emotions away. This will help you to recognise your needs as you grief during the festive period.” Ask yourself, “‘What do I need? Sometime alone or a little company with loved ones?’ Perhaps you could even cap the social time to one to two hours based on how you are feeling at that point of time,” says Bhavani Deva, a registered clinical psychologist who practices at Psychology Blossom.
2. RSVP ‘no’
Give yourself permission to skip the parties if you don’t feel up to it. “Festive celebrations can feel out of sync with your inner emotions. Acknowledge your feelings. You don’t have to do what’s socially expected of you. Everyone grieves differently,” says Gracie Mak, co-founder and director of Whispering Hope. “That said, resist the temptation to grieve alone. Surround yourself with safe people who understand, give you space and time to grieve, and who won’t judge.”
3. Stay in the present
“Focus on what you can control rather than on what has happened. This helps you stay in the present moment even as you grieve,” shares Deva.
4. Find ways to honour their memory
“Honour the memories of your loved one if you have dealt with your grief throughly,” Deva suggests. “If the grief is rather fresh, it would perhaps be safer to start a new tradition as otherwise you may be overwhelmed with a wide array of emotions that you may not be equipped to handle without emotional support (i.e., from a professional).”
“Create your own holiday tradition,” recommends Tina Padia, certified life coach and fertility coach. “Light a candle, write a poem, or hang a special ornament to process and remember your loss.”
Coping with the grief of pregnancy, embryo loss or failed fertility treatments
It’s hard enough to face the heartbreak of loss and fertility-related disappointments, but holidays can often be extra triggering for those yearning for a baby of their own.
“Grief encompasses more than just the loss of a loved one. It extends to the loss of a pregnancy, embryo, or the failed fertility treatments. This can bring about intense sorrow for a baby that could have been. The holidays, focussed on families and children can be so difficult,” says Padia who endured many years of heartbreak in her fertility journey.
“Be kind and compassionate to yourself. If you don’t want to be reminded of what you don’t have, it’s perfectly acceptable to choose not to participate in festivities without feeling guilty. Go on a trip with your partner without feeling guilty. Celebrate with family and friends without feeling guilty,” says Padia, who is also a reiki practitioner. “Remember, you’re healing and protecting yourself from emotional pain. You know what’s best for you.”