Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

Holidays and Friend Grief

sad_holiday-250x300It's been a tough year, as I wrote last week. Many of us lost friends and the holidays are not always kind for those who grieve. So I'm sharing this post from 2012 as a reminder to take care of ourselves and keep our friendships in our hearts:

I hated the holidays – Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day – when I was single and not dating. I felt like it was the annual reminder from the universe that I was alone. Everyone had someone during the holidays except me. At least that’s what it felt like.

It’s hard to lose a friend, whether they were our best friend, a co-worker, a neighbor, the girl whose locker was next to ours. The holidays are hard after you’ve lost a family member. But what about for those of us who have lost a friend?

I’ve been reading articles about coping with grief during this festive time of year. Without exception, they focused on grieving a family member. Nothing wrong with that. I’ve had a couple of bad Christmases myself. The one after my uncle died in a car accident earlier in December was horrible. We went through the motions, but it wasn’t the same.

So it is when our friends die. Maybe there were special things the two of you did together during the holidays: Thanksgiving Day football games, shopping, office parties, afternoon tea, organizing mini-class reunions, baking cookies. When they’re gone, those activities lose a lot of the happiness they brought you.

You may find yourself shopping and thinking “oh, they’d love that,” only to realize that there’s no need to buy it. You may find yourself avoiding the holiday rituals that had been a part of your friendship, making excuses that no one – including you – believes. You may find yourself, like me, just wishing you could hibernate during the holidays.

Taking care of yourself is paramount. Too many of us who grieve our friends are encouraged, coaxed and otherwise told in no uncertain terms that we need to “move on”. And all that does is create resentment and stall our healing. So – always with the disclaimer that I’m not a therapist – here are some things to consider while you grieve a friend during the holidays:

1 – Get some sleep. No, seriously, get some sleep. No one gets medals for being sleep-deprived, and when you’re grieving, your body is under additional stress. Do whatever you have to do to get more rest – naps, earlier bedtime, meditation. A few minutes a day can make a big difference.

2 – Don’t over-indulge. We hear it all the time during the holidays: don’t overeat or drink too much. But again, when we’re grieving, we’re often less self-aware of what we’re doing. It can be easy to eat and drink more than we should. Neither one will help you get through the holidays with any semblance of peace of mind.

3 – Find a buddy for your journey. It might be a mutual friend of the one who died. It might be a therapist. It might be group therapy. Someone you can talk to about what you’re going through, someone who understands and won’t pressure you to go back to “normal” as soon as possible. Talk to your dog. Write in a journal. But find a way to express your grief.

4 – Revisit or create new rituals. Maybe doing the things you did with that friend give you comfort; make them feel close to you. If they don’t, do something different, maybe something your friend was not interested in doing.

5 – Honor your friend’s memory during the holidays. Make a donation to a cause they supported. Gives gifts to needy families or deployed soldiers in their memory.

None of these things will change the reality: your friend died and you miss them. But they may help you get through a challenging time of year with your sanity intact.

In the end, Scrooge talked about “keeping Christmas every day.” May you find a way to keep your friend’s memory every day.

(And if you have any suggestions to add to the list, feel free to share.)