Grieving During The Holidays

When this year began, none of us were prepared for the roller coaster that was in store.

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UNSPLASH Kelly Sikkema

I, for one, just returned from living abroad in Florence and was excited to reunite with my friends and family. I was finishing up my junior year at college and celebrated my 21st birthday at the beginning of March. Everything seemed normal, until things took a turn for the worse.

What I expected to be a two-week quarantine turned into, well you already know. Early on, when the United States remained in lockdown, my Nana came down with pneumonia. Unable to see her during her illness, I was distraught. This is someone I have gained a large sum of my core values from. As a woman of faith, she suffered extreme loss throughout her life. Her husband died nearly twenty years ago, since then she has had to bury two of her four children, my father included. While experiencing tremendous grief, she continued to obtain a positive outlook on life – a resilience that she instilled in others. Unfortunately this year, unable to have visitors at her side, my Nana passed away. I was heartbroken in the fact that I wasn’t able to hug her goodbye. While I did FaceTime her and create a video compilation of all my cousins wishing her well, it is unfortunately not the same.

As someone who has spent the past sixteen Christmas’s grieving the loss of my dad, it’s definitely not easy. Through the resilience my Nana, and other powerful women in my life have instilled in me, I have learned to cope with my loss, but I will still always miss my dad around the holidays. Something I find that helps with this coping process is surrounding myself with family and friends, sharing stories of loved ones who have passed. This year, I hope to video chat with my loved ones or have masked up and socially distanced gatherings.

So many of us are grieving in 2020, hence it is evermore important to stay grounded with the people we still have with us on this Earth. While a new normal – human interaction is still possible – you just need a bit of creativity. Whether you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, a lost job, or unable to spend the holidays as usual; we are all struggling in some way. Know that you’re not alone and that your feelings are valid.

Despite spending the holidays differently this year, I personally plan to keep the traditions alive, even if it is just with my immediate family. I’m looking forward to decorating the Christmas tree, baking cookies, and of course, picking out meaningful gifts to show my loved ones how much they mean to me. Maintaining these traditions often helps me feel close to those who’ve passed while creating new memories. However you plan to spend the holidays this year, I wish you health and resilience. We will get through this together.

Katherine McGowan

Social Media Associate

Katherine is a New Jersey native who is passionate about understanding culture through its history and food. You can most likely find her enjoying an Aperol Spritz with a local or getting lost on a windy cobblestone road. Some of her other favorite cities are NYC, Amsterdam, London and Rome.

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