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How I Grieve During the Holidays, 5 Minutes at a Time

Maybe someone we love is missing this holiday. Someone we love is ill. Or it’s possible we feel betrayed by the pain of our own bodies. Maybe we’ve been carrying a broken heart that feels like tiny, shattered pieces instead of a functioning organ.

Well-intentioned family and friends wave from outside a window. “Look at the twinkling lights! Look at the holiday cheer!”

Co-workers smell like cinnamon and health. We might attempt to feel their joy and realize it’s not going to happen. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a holiday scent like that? Wouldn’t it be nice not to wonder if they notice your scent is somehow different, heavier?

This is permission to feel pain right now.

This is permission to want to ease the ache, even if for a few minutes.

Let’s try this together.

Right now, set the timer for five minutes on your phone. I’ll do it with you.

We choose one of the following:

1. Wrap up in a warm blanket or a sweater. Sit down wherever we are. If we are at home, sit or lie on the floor, chair or bed. If we are at work, find an empty bathroom stall. Go ahead.

We close our eyes. Really close them. Wrap the blanket or sweater tightly around our bodies. Allow ourselves to be held by the shape and weight of the fabric.

This is self-compassion and we’re doing it just right.

2. Choose a favorite mug — the one that feels a bit heavy in our hands. Heat the kettle. Wait for the whistle to tell us when it’s time. Steep a favorite tea. Let our faces hover gently over the steam. Take a few deep breaths — slowly in, slowly out. Allow the warmth to soothe us.

This is self-compassion and we are doing it together, in different places at the same time.

3. Call or text a friend. Someone we trust. If we are at home, find a quiet space. If we are at work, we step outside even if it’s cold. Keep one hand warmed in a coat pocket. Use the other to call or text. If the friend answers, tell them that the sadness doesn’t need to be fixed. It needs to be shared. Ask them to hold some of the sadness, for just a few minutes.

If they don’t answer, leave a voicemail. Imagine this person holding us, right there, in the cold air.

This is self-compassion. This is connection.

Know we are not disappearing. We are feeling, and this is allowed.

Watching a mother and daughter or the couple with hands intertwined may not always ache.

The scent of cinnamon won’t always bring grief.

Until that moment, set the timer. Five minutes at a time.



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Getty image via vladans