Managing Your Grief Over The Loss Of A Loved One During The Holidays

December 25, 2014  |  

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Alyssa Johnson 

Losing a parent is never easy. Dealing with that loss right before the holidays is an even more brutal experience. The holidays are meant for family and friends to catch up, show love, cultivate and build on relationships. But sometimes, they are filled with grief and heartache.

Earlier this month, two celebrities laid their mothers to rest and said goodbye for the last time. Singer Kelly Rowland’s mother, Mrs. Doris Flora Rowland Garrison, died after a lengthy, unknown illness. Kandi Burruss’ husband, Todd Tucker, lost his mother, Sharon Tucker, to a fatal stroke.  Sharon passed one day before Rowland’s mother.

When the news of Sharon Tucker’s passing hit the net, I was a bit taken aback.  His statement on Instagram made me break down and cry because I knew that particular pain all too well. Part of his statement read, “Today I lost my partner, my ride or die, my best friend! I don’t know what to do? I’m lost! My heart hurts so much!” I can also relate to Rowland losing her mom and having to move through life knowing that her baby boy won’t know his maternal grandmother.  My baby girl will only get to know my mom through photos and stories.

I lost both of my parents at different times, but both of their deaths came right before a major holiday.

Like many little girls, my father was my absolute first love. I worshipped the ground he walked on. Wherever he was, I wanted to be. His day job was as an inspector for CSX (the transport company), but his passions included music, philosophy and writing. We connected over our love of words mostly, his need to teach and my need to absorb knowledge. To this day, I haven’t met a man that can compete with his conversation and listening skills. Our relationship was a bit tumultuous as I became an adult, but the love was always there. We made peace with each other right before his passing. He died two years ago, right before Thanksgiving, and while I’d like to say that it gets easier (it does in some ways), that hole where his laugh used to be is still there. He was sick for a while so I had time to process it all a little better and say my goodbyes.

But as for my mom, she passed in her sleep. It was sudden and it was absolutely crushing. I had just graduated from college and was entering womanhood, and all of a sudden I had to do it alone. It was like walking a busy highway with a blindfold on.  While my father was “my everything,” my mom was simply ‘mommy.’ Her unending love, wisdom, independent spirit and witty sense of humor are the things I miss the most.

After her passing in 2001, the holidays would sadden me. As they approached, a black cloud would seemingly appear over my head. Sure, I put on a brave face so that I wouldn’t ruin the holiday for others, but on the inside, I was filled with sadness. I participated in the festivities, but for a long time, I wasn’t fully present.

As the years went on, I realized that I was doing my parents a great disservice by letting their absence and the pain of it hold me back during the holidays. I also discovered that the most important thing I could do was keep them alive by talking about them to family and friends; cherish their memory and honor their time here. I’ve found it means a lot to all of the other people that loved them dearly as well.

If this is something you are dealing with during this holiday season, just know that it gets better. Time can sometimes be a healer of old wounds, and it can help you see things in a different light. The most important thing that you can do is surround yourself with positive and caring loved ones. I’ve found that my two sisters, my nieces and my nephew are my saving grace during this time, but your comforters can also come in the form of friends and/or acquaintances. Just being around positive people can help in your healing.  Don’t sit home and have that pity party that’s waiting in the reserved section of your emotions. If someone invites you out, go – even if you don’t feel up for it. In other words, go wherever the love is. Follow the love during this holiday season.

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