For many, the holiday season is not the anticipated joyful season it is for others. The loss of a child, a spouse, a young parent or beloved grandparent, can be the cause of a seasonal grief that recurs for several years. To lose a loved one during this time of year, a time when there is much more emphasis on family, togetherness, and community, can for many be an almost unending and recurrent source of emotional angst. People who’ve lost a loved one, perhaps a child, an adolescent or family member, usually for the most part must experience a year’s worth of social and seasonal cues which trigger fond, yet mournful, memories in order for the grief to mellow to the point of feeling truly better.
I read of a case once where an outwardly healthy and emotionally stable 20 year old man who had lost his mother in a car wreck during the month of November, two days prior to Thanksgiving, would suffer severe gastrointestinal and asthma-like symptoms for three months every year beginning in November and did so for seven years. Extensive testing failed to reveal anything wrong. He was thought to have severe psychogenic reactions relative to his mother’s death and only until he submitted to psychotherapy did he ‘breakout’ of its hold.
In many instances like these we’ve become aware of the cause of holiday mourning of others. While on the other hand, in making new friendships with neighbors, or co-workers, we may not be privy to such matters. Connecting with others and participating in the community has been shown to be extremely effective in easing the heaviness of depression during this time. In the instance of knowing if those we work with or live around are experiencing such seasonal grief, which seems to be accentuated during the holiday season, invitations with a view towards support and togetherness can be key in helping someone in this situation.
If this is something you’ve been struggling with year after year and find it difficult to overcome, overcoming the desire to not be engaged with the community or others can be insurmountable. But participating in church, volunteering your services to civic groups or faith-based groups and charity organizations can be an extremely effective way to treat this problem.
Recently, a widow in her 40’s, who’s husband died last year the first week of December, grieved severely for almost six months following her husband’s untimely and sudden death. She shared with me that she, her sister, and her two daughters had planned a trip to Disney World during the Christmas weekend wanting to move forward and while forever remembering his life and love, wanted to create new and happy memories along side the ones they had of him this time of year.
Another shared with me that they addressed deep recurring seasonal depression by flying out to Los Angeles to visit relatives during the holiday season, something they never did when their young son was living prior to his untimely death.
For most, only time will take care of this problem. But for many, until you are able to do something different -- to break out of the mold of seasonal habits, so to speak -- will you be able to effectively pass over any sad feelings during the holiday season and change it to become something better, for you and your family. If you happen to know of someone going through something like this, make an effort to reach out to them -- it may make all the difference in the world.