The Happiest Time of Year?

The end of a calendar year and beginning of a new one is often revered as a happy time when individuals and families can spend time together under the lens of a holiday season. However, through my work I have realized that this is not the case for every person. It is during this time of the year I tend to make myself more available for my clients—I might extend my hours and allow more flexible boundaries on communication, as I have learned my clients tend to need more support now than during other times of the year.

Why is this? My biggest concern is usually that people tend to be reminded of the grief they carry with them throughout their lifetime during the final months of the year and into the new which can normally be characterized as a time for celebration. A person can more frequently be confronted with the grief they feel as a reminder of loss. These moments tend to go hand in hand with happy moments, making these times bittersweet. Simply put, as much as the holiday season can bring cheer and hope, it is also a time for reflection for many people—a kind of reminder of things or people that they may have been lost.

Much of the work that I do could be characterized as grief work, and I have found that grief is often one of the greatest consequences of love enduring. I speak about love and grief in my sessions as if they work hand in hand, which I have come to find out is true. Much like love, grief can resemble a box or backpack that each person will carry during their lifetime. Grief often occurs due to a loss—loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of a friendship, or even loss of a family pet.

Grief looks different to every person and can be experienced and characterized by many unique features. It is often explained by five stages, which can be felt in unique ways for each person. One can move through each stage, remain stuck, or cycle through stages depending on the level of grief felt, time of year, etc. These stages include denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance.

In my experience, it is normal for people who live in a state of acceptance to periodically experience the other stages of grief at moments like the end of the year for various reasons. While this is normal, it does not make this time of year easier to swallow for some, and can often lead to feelings of anxiety, resentment, fear, and loneliness. For many people, the feeling of grief never fully goes away, but can be managed through self introspection, talking about grief feelings with support systems, sitting with grief feelings, and/or acceptance and tolerance of life events that cannot be controlled.

As we start the new year, coming out of the holiday season, if you or someone you know experience the pain of grief or maybe you feel it with you every day, it is okay to embrace the idea that you are not alone. There are many people who walk with feelings of hopelessness and grief every day, but perhaps love existed where grief may have taken occupancy. We learn to grow around around feelings of grief, even if those feelings can’t or wont completely disappear. Acceptance and tolerance of the things we cant control can be a helpful goal to work towards, which is a journey that can be started by reaching out and connecting with one’s vulnerable side—what can be quite a daunting task.

It is okay to talk about your grief – be open with it and learn from it. It is normal to cycle and it is normal to feel heavy around this time of year. You are not alone, and you are not wrong for feeling this way during the “Happiest Time of the Year”. There are many reasons to use this time as a means to process the hard feelings we bottle up throughout the year, but if that is not possible and you need time to rest, it’s okay. Being kind to yourself looks different for everyone, and I hope you get the chance to be kind to yourself when things are more difficult in your life. Also, if no one told you this yet, let me be the first – I hope your holiday season was spent with people or memories that feel important to you, and most importantly, I hope that every holiday season passes you gently.

Suzanne Lancaster

Suzanne Lancaster