From Mourning to Joy

From Mourning to Joy

There are some stories of loss and resilience that are powerful, resonating deeply with those who’ve walked similar paths. We’re sharing two stories of individuals who experienced profound losses yet have found ways to cope during the holidays.

Aingeel’s Journey

It was just another day in my life when tragedy struck. I lost multiple members of my family in one brutal, senseless event. Suddenly, our lives were turned upside down, leaving us to navigate through the darkest time of our lives. 

The holidays – oh, how they’ve changed. I remember our first Christmas after the tragedy and the incessant longing to be with family, mixed with a twinge of dread knowing that some of them wouldn’t be there. Their absences were like heavy clouds in the room… stifling and inescapable. Certain traditions would hit me like a punch in the gut, reminding me of what I’d lost. With time, I learned how to manage my feelings, permitting myself to feel. I learned how to hold complex emotions – grief or fleeting moments of joy.

When the grief was too much, I reached out for help. Therapy, grief counseling, journaling – you name it, I tried it. I even attended yoga retreats and took up gardening, searching for anything that could give me moments of reprieve from the sadness. My friends and family were my rock, lending support in different ways – calls, texts, flowers, or space to let me be. Their understanding helped make the journey a little less lonely. I leaned on my best friend and therapist to process my feelings, which gave me comfort in doing things that brought me a sense of peace. One thing that really helped was starting new traditions, which has made the holiday season more manageable. It adds a glimmer of hope during the dark times.

If you’re going through something similar, here is some advice: think about what nourishes your soul. What would make the holidays more manageable for you? That’s where you start. Take baby steps. Know that it’s okay to feel deep grief. Make room for it. Try creating a tradition that honors your loved ones. You know what? Over time, my feelings have evolved. The holidays don’t feel as heavy as they once did. Now, there’s a sense of excitement about spending time with family, and I’m even welcoming new love into my life! Trust me – there’s light at the end of the tunnel. 

If I’ve learned one thing from all of this, it’s the importance of having positive coping strategies. If you’re at a family gathering and it becomes unbearable, it’s okay to leave. Find at least one person that can offer authentic support and lean on them. Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. Grief is hard, but remember, you deserve grace too.

Allaire’s Enlightenment

It was one Thanksgiving holiday that changed my life forever. Less than a month shy of 21 and a mother of two when I got the call that my husband had been killed due to senseless gun violence. The blow was sudden, unexpected, and cruel. The process of grieving? Complex, entangled with shock, and a pressing need to be the rock for two young babies.

Strangely, I didn’t cry or visit his gravesite for ten long years, but when I finally did, all hell broke loose. I stood on the brink of a nervous breakdown, as they had to carry me out. All those suppressed feelings came rushing out like a dam breaking loose. It was a poignant realization that grief had been silently trailing me, a shadow refusing to let go.

Now, over 30 years later, I acknowledge that every year something shows up as a “trigger.” It isn’t sadness as much as anxiety, an internal battle that plays out in my mind. It starts in October – his birthday. Then, the Thanksgiving holiday always seems to add another layer of complexity to my feelings. As the years passed and the kids acknowledged these times, I realized that I never really processed, which led me to seek therapy.

Despite all this, I’ve always strived to make things special for everyone around me. It’s a special season, with tons of birthdays and holidays in the mix. It used to be a struggle, putting on a face for the world, but by granting myself grace to feel whatever emotions show up, things aren’t as hard as they used to be. The kids are older, which probably makes it a lot easier to laugh and remember the good times.

Some friends might not understand why it’s not always a feeling of holiday cheer, especially with so much going on around this time of year, but that’s okay. I know how to keep moving forward, especially having to navigate life being very young and raising young kids on my own. I learned how to show up as my best self, whatever that was at the moment. I no longer wonder why this had to happen to my family, but instead embrace the tinges of melancholy that still show up at times. 

My feelings have evolved over the years. It’s never been a time that is so sorrowful that the holidays can’t be enjoyed or cherished, it’s just the internal turmoil that has turned into happy memories of the man I loved and lost. Some years are better than others, especially when you have two spitting images of a past lifetime. 

The coping strategy? Simple, yet powerful – embrace it. Embrace whatever feelings come up and know that you will be okay. There is strength in the human spirit and power in resilience. Through all the highs and lows, I’ve learned to navigate life with grace, love, and courage, shining a light for those who may be walking a similar path.

Despite their unique journeys, both stories have similar themes: the importance of granting yourself permission to feel, and the power of embracing emotions. They underline the significance of support from loved ones and the healing potential of forming new traditions. 

In both stories, holidays that were once a time of joy and celebration became stark reminders of profound loss. However, over time, both ladies found ways to reclaim the festive season, which evolved into a time of remembrance – sometimes painful, but often happy. It’s clear that there’s no right way to cope with grief or navigate through the holidays after a loss, but one thing stands out: it’s important to grant yourself grace and understand that it’s okay to feel an array of emotions

Remember to tap in and lean on your support system. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you need it. Create new traditions that can bring honor and joy to your loved ones. Finally, embrace your feelings; embrace your journey. Know that no matter how hard things get, you’re not alone. You may experience feelings of guilt when you’re having moments of joy or happiness, and that’s normal. With time, you will find your own path to healing, peace, and gratitude for what’s still here.

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