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Episode 048: Live Happier Through the Holidays Part 4: Grief

Part 4 of 6 Living Happier Through the Holidays: Grief

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Hi, and welcome. You are listening to the Stories from a Quest to Live Happier Podcast and I’m your host, Nancy Jane Smith. I’m a  licensed professional counselor and in this podcast, I share my stories and lessons I’ve learned, and I continue to learn on my quest to live happier. The show notes and the complete transcript can be found at This episode is number forty-eight of my Live Happier Through the Holidays Series. This is part four and it’s grief. We’re looking at grief this week so let’s get into the show.

This week’s theme we’re looking at grief as we move through the holidays series and if you’ve missed the previous episodes which have been on priority setting and boundaries and joy, please go back and visit my website, and you can listen to those previous episodes. This week, we’re specifically talking about grief and I really wanted to cover grief in the series because grief and sadness is a big part of the holidays for a lot of people. It’s a part that we don’t talk about very much because you know, like last week’s episode it’s supposed to be about joy and happiness and, “Yay, it’s the holidays.”

For a lot of us, anytime we have that forced merriment, the opposite comes out and that’s grief. The holiday season is tough. It brings up a lot of traditions and memories, and we think of loved ones that we’ve lost, either maybe we’ve lost them this year or we lost them in years passed. We think of holiday traditions that have died or moved on, or we don’t do them anymore. The holidays bring up change and grief and sadness. That pressure of having the Norman Rockwell holiday that a lot of us don’t have because you know it honestly doesn’t exist but we still have the pressure to have it, it brings up some sadness.

My first tip for you in living happier through the holidays with grief is allowing it. Giving yourself permission to not be super merry all the time, that is okay. Last week when we talked about joy, I was really stressing the importance that joy comes when we’re intentional and when we’re paying attention and we’re looking for the moments of joy. So often we push down our grief because we think we should be joyful or we should be happier, we shouldn’t be feeling sad when in reality we already are feeling sad. Giving yourself permission to feel, to feel the sadness, to remember the loved one, to say their name, to bring up the memories.

With that idea that it’s okay to feel whatever it is you’re feeling and to just give yourself permission because when we don’t allow it, we push it down and it becomes harder. It becomes worse because we’ve pushed down the feelings rather than just allowing them to come up and have that bubbly surface. For me, I know I’m going through my own personal grief. I’ve talked about my father’s illness with dementia and Parkinson’s and it’s so challenging to have someone, to watch someone disappear with such a terrible disease. The thing I’ve learned about grief and feelings is that it comes and goes. When we allow ourselves to feel sad.

Someone can ask me, “How is it going with your dad?” I can tap into that grief in a second and then I tap out of it in a second too. Just because someone asked, “How’s your dad?” I may tear up, it doesn’t mean the rest of the dinner is ruined because I teared up or I’m going to be in grief the rest of the time. No, when you allow that feeling you can tap into it and tap back out of it. You move through your feelings. It does feel a bit like a roller coaster but it also can smooth out and be like, “This is okay that I’m tapping into my grief and now I’m tapping back out and I’m going to be joyful.”

That is the concept of living happier, that our feelings flow and when we allow them, it doesn’t become this huge spike or trough. It’s just, “I’m feeling this right now and then it’s going to go away.” The roller coaster of up and down and up and down becomes a little, I have a gentle rolling. When we live in the place of I can’t feel grief and we hold ourselves from feeling it, then inevitably we’re going to enter that trough because it’s too much to hold back. When we allow our feelings to come and go as they are, they roll around and it becomes so much more fluid and loose. I encourage you to really allow your feelings. I talked a little bit about memories and having the memories.

I love the idea of a memory box or a memory stocking where if you’ve lost someone who’s really important to you, you can write out those memories that you are thinking of when you think of that person around the holidays and then put them in the stocking or put them in that specific box. Then have time during the holidays to take those out and read them and share them with others so you can bring the memories alive and share them with other people so they can learn more about the person you love. It’s a great way to bring the family together around someone who’s gone and also a great way for you to heal yourself through sharing stories. Then, the reminder that it’s okay to skip holiday events.

Back in the previous episodes, I talked about making a plan for your holiday and really getting specific on what it is you want to take part in or not take part in. As we move through the holidays, here we are in week three or four, I can’t remember. You may decide, that the neighborhood party sounded really fun at the beginning of December but now it doesn’t sound real fun. It’s okay to skip holiday events or to go for an hour and leave because it’s just too much. Really honor where you are with your grief and sadness and to give yourself a break that you don’t have to be holly jolly all the time.

Then just a simple tip of moving your body. I know that sounds really easy and a lot of times when we’re in grief and sadness, the last thing we want to do is to get out and move, especially when it’s so cold outside. I really encourage you to stretch or take a walk or do something that’s honoring your body. Same with avoiding all, balancing out cookies and sweets and making sure that you’re getting some foods and vegetables in addition to all the fatty foods that we eat around the holidays and making sure that you’re not over drinking because that just brings out more grief and sadness.

Giving yourself a little balance and putting your physical health first. Then, finally I have this two simple things that I want you to do just have in your brain and remember and one of them is that everyone has a story. My favorite saying is, “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” The holidays is right for that. We spend a lot of time comparing our insides to everyone else’s outsides and we see all these people around us being holly jolly and having a festive time and a wonderful holiday with all their friends and we aren’t feeling that internally. We allow ourselves to get more sad and more stuck in grief because we’re in this comparison that isn’t accurate.

What we’re seeing on everyone’s outsides is not the true story. Just to remind yourself that isn’t accurate to compare your insides to everybody else’s outsides and to also be comparing that everyone has a story. Everyone is suffering. Everyone is going through a loss or sadness or grief around this time of year and always and so to remember you’re not alone in whatever it is you’re struggling with, that there are other people out there that also are struggling and that’s okay. Then, the final tip is embracing the do-over. A lot of times when we’re in sadness and grief, we get stuck in, we beat ourselves up for doing it wrong or not having the right response or feeling sad or whatever but allowing yourself to embrace the do-over means you can go back and say you’re sorry.

You can go back and be like, “I wish I would have been able to come to that party but I just couldn’t do it,” or, “I wish I would have said such and such but I just didn’t and I apologize.” Embrace that you have the ability to go back and do it over again and say what it is you really wanted to say and not everything needs to be done perfectly right out the front door. You can really take some time to embrace that do-over. Mostly, I just wish you a lot of grace and compassion for yourself around this time of year and going through the grief and the sadness and experiencing everything, the grief, the sadness, the joy, the holly jolliness of the holidays.

Giving yourself permission to experience all that the holidays offer which is joy and sadness and peace and sorrow and the whole thing. Every gamut of emotions is what this holiday brings up. Giving yourself the permission to ride that role that happens in life and allowing it to be, because when we do that we don’t get stuck in all of the drama and conflict because we’re avoiding our emotions so we throw them up on other people. When we allow ourselves to feel sad, when we’re feeling sad then we don’t push it away and then yell at the dog because they did something wrong when really it was that we were sad.

Give yourself permission to just be wherever you are and give yourself a lot of grace and compassion around it. Okay, that’s the show. Thanks for listening. The Stories from a Quest to Live Happier Podcast comes out every week. If you have questions, please email me at Until next time. Here’s to living happier.


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