Holding joy and grief

While we may all celebrate different December holidays, what we share in 2020 is that this is the first time we will be celebrating during a pandemic. It is true that during any given year you probably have experienced joy as well as loss in some way or another. What is different this year is that as a society, we are experiencing loss on a grand scale.

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, perhaps this was the first year you did so via Zoom or not in the presence of family at all. These are difficult times and we are all asked to make difficult decisions regarding the health and safety of ourselves and loved ones on a daily basis. Earlier this week when sharing the details of Thanksgiving celebrations a friend shared that this was the first time her family shared not only what they were grateful for, but also what they were grieving.

As uneasy as it may seem, it is important we open our conversations to make space for grief. As a collective, we tend to ignore painful feelings. When asked “How are you?”, how many times have you responded “fine” or “good” when you really weren’t? During the past nine months, we have come to ask “How are you?” with a bit more intention, maybe even followed by “Really, how are you doing?”

As you navigate the holiday season, experiment with holding both, the joy and the grief. Yes, this is vulnerable, and yes, it may not be easy. If we want to continue to feel positive emotions, it is important to also feel the challenging emotions, as we can’t selectively deny one and not the other.

 If this is something you would like to explore, you might try one of the following:

  • Journal – Write about something that brings feelings of joy, as well as something that brings feelings of grief.
  • Guided Meditation– Find a comfortable seat. Place your left hand down on your left knee, and your right hand down on your right knee. Take a few calming breaths to settle in. Turn your left palm up and begin to picture in your mind a positive force in your life. It might be a friend, family member, pet or deity. Begin to notice the sensations on the left side of your body as you feel the support from this loving presence. When ready, place the left palm face down and turn the right palm up. Now bring to mind a circumstance, relationship or memory that is a source of grief or sorrow. Without judgement, feel the sensations on the right side of your body. If this becomes difficult, remind yourself that you are safe, and this is just a feeling that will pass. When ready, return the right palm back down to the knee. Feel the groundedness and stability of both hands on top of the knees. Lastly, turn both palms upward at the same time. Picture the positive force on the left, and the feelings of grief on the right. Stay curious as you welcome both. Trust that you can hold space in your body and mind for both joy and sorrow. Bring both hands together in front of the heart as you release all images from the mind and take a few calming breaths.
  • Talk with a friend, family member or therapist. You don’t have to do this alone.  If you need someone to talk to check out the NAMI HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)