Be Kind to Those Who Grieve at the Holidays

I shouldn’t need to say this, but be kind to those who Grieve during the holidays.

A year ago, my husband was in the hospital after being diagnosed with late stage, metastatic bladder cancer. I’m not kidding when I say I had no holiday spirit at all. It drove me crazy that all the employees at the cancer hospital kept saying, “Have a nice day.”

Really? Seriously?

I wanted to scream at them, “This is a freaking cancer hospital! How many people do you think are having a nice day?” The best alternative I could come up with was, “I hope your day doesn’t suck too badly.” But I politely kept my thoughts to myself. Stiff upper lip and all.

Bah Humbug

It’s always tough to lose someone you care about, but it seems especially difficult at the holidays when we’re surrounded by happy people looking forward to their gifts and parties, and with Christmas music playing nonstop in every store. The whole world seems happy except for those who are going through one of the toughest times in their lives. By New Year’s, I could have cheerfully strangled the people who were tone deaf enough to wish me a Happy New Year. There was nothing happy about it.

grief like ocean quote

This first year of widowhood has been challenging and sad, though not without moments of joy, like my cruise. I’ve grown a lot in the process of being on my own for the first time in many years. Would I say it has been a good year? No, I wouldn’t go that far, though I wouldn’t call it a bad year. Last year was the bad one. I’d call 2015 a transitional year.

If you know someone who has lost a loved one or is going through a tough time due to some other kind of circumstance, please choose your holiday wishes carefully, lest someone wish to strangle you. And do keep in mind that not everyone is having a happy holiday season.

Wishing everyone the best holiday possible, whatever that may mean to you.


Grief Like an Ocean: Weathering the Storm

I first saw this quote, comparing grief to an ocean, at N. N. Light‘s blog back in June.

GriefOcean-800x598I love this quote. I can’t think of a more apt analogy for grief than an ocean.

Grief begins with a shock akin to an earthquake of epic proportions, followed by a tsunami of emotions: disbelief, denial or anger or guilt, and above all an overwhelming sadness that engulfs your whole being. It takes a while for the tsunami to recede, leaving you feeling adrift in a turbulent ocean.

Lady and sea wavesAfter a while, the turbulence decreases and there are periods of smooth sailing, but like the ocean, grief is seemingly endless and unpredictable. There will be squalls during which we experience what the professionals call a STUG: a short, temporary upsurge of grief. And sometimes there are storms of emotion. These usually occur at some pivotal moment: a holiday, a birthday, an anniversary, when thoughts of the lost loved one are impossible to deny or keep at bay.

View of storm seascapeAnd then the ocean smooths out again and we go  back to living moment to moment, waiting for… we know not what. Does grief ever end? Not really, though the storms and squalls diminish over time until the loved one becomes a cherished memory rather than an open wound of the heart.

Today is the first wedding anniversary without my dear husband, so this topic is much on my mind. I have a distraction planned for today: a movie and dinner with a friend. So I expect I will weather this storm, too.

Smooth Sailing

Sailboat near Monterey, one of our favorite vacation spots

I wish all of you smooth sailing.


A note about the photos: The first one was taken by me from the balcony of the Royal Princess as we were leaving Scotland in the North Sea. Photos two and three are licensed from The last photo was taken in Pacific Grove, CA. in 2006 on my last trip to the Monterey Peninsula with my husband.