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Living with grief during the holidays

Curiosity can help a griever

Grief can sometimes be an unwanted companion during the holiday season. For some, it can be constant and for others, it can spring up unexpectedly. No matter how you experience grief, local grief and loss coach, Eryn Elder, owner of Roots and Wings Grief and Loss Coaching has some tips to help you and your loved ones through the holiday season.

Nearly 10 years ago, Elder’s daughter died while in daycare. The baby was three months and 22 days old, Elder said. 

“There was no blame on the provider. It was an unexplained sudden infant death,” Elder explained. 

After experiencing her daughter’s death, Elder struggled to find a way to cope with her grief. She said she sought out counseling and other services like acupuncture — which were helpful but still felt that there was something missing to help her “create movement” in her grief. 

While on a walk, Elder discovered a new way to approach grief that she felt she needed to share. She became a grief and loss counselor to adults 18 years old and older. Her intention is to coach people to integrate any kind of grief or loss into their personal journey by enhancing their own self-being and self-advocacy, she said.

The holiday season seems to bring grief into focus for some people, whether it is the loss of a job, a loved one or something else important to a person. 

“Generally speaking, the holidays can be difficult without grief because human relationships are incredibly messy and hard,” Elder said. “When we are grieving, our brain is creating a new map.”

Elder suggested that although we are learning to live with the loss, some things in our lives, such as holiday traditions don’t change or we don’t want them to change. These can remind us more of the loss we endured, she said.

The holidays can also be difficult because it is a time when people traditionally come together. As people grieve, they often feel as though they need a companion in that grief, Elder said. 

“We often expect that our family members are those people and they may not have a strong understanding of grief and loss and how to support us. So us, as grievers, sometimes having to state our needs as we are changing and as we are responding to our loss is a challenge,” Elder said. “We want to be seen and at the holidays we also don’t want to feel like a burden to others.”

Including someone is a powerful tool to help someone who is grieving during the holidays, Elder said. She suggests inviting people to join in your plans and normalizing their grief. It is also important to be considerate of how the griever wishes to recognize their grief. For example, if the person lost a loved one, perhaps a photo displayed will be helpful. In some cases, it could make the feelings worse. It is important ask questions, Elder said.

“Everybody grieves differently but everybody wants space to be acknowledged,” Elder said. 

Some people believe that grief should not be talked about. Others think you get over grief. Elder disagrees. She believes that grief never leaves us and we learn how to live with it while also learning how to care for ourselves.

She suggests a three-pronged approach to the journey of grief whether it is supporting ourselves or another that includes care, resources and network.

It is important to ask ourselves how we show ourselves care and how do we show others care, Elder said, while showing consistent compassion for ourselves and others.  

Finding the right resources,knowing how to connect to them when we need them and identifying our support network are equally helpful to a person who is grieving. Sometimes this might mean starting a difficult conversation with someone you see struggling and helping them research what resources are best for them. Sometimes it could mean just being there next to the griever, Elder said. 

Curiosity can help a griever explore what they are feeling and what they need. As a person supporting a griever, being curious and asking questions can show the person that someone cares and is willing to walk beside them on their journey, instead of trying to fix them, Elder said. 

Grief can be difficult to deal with at any time of the year but the holidays tend to draw focus to it. For those who need help with mental health, substance use or emotional concerns you can call the Colorado Crisis Services call center at 844-493-8255.


Macie May

About the Author: Macie May

Macie May has built her career in community journalism serving local Colorado communities since 2017.
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