When It’s November and You’re Grieving

november

When someone is grieving, there are a lot of times that we anticipate being difficult: first birthdays, special occasions, anniversaries of the loss, and, of course, Christmas. 

Christmases after the loss of a loved one are forever different. It is hard not to dwell on the empty seat at the table and the gift NOT under the tree. With its emphasis on joy and family and memories this time of year, Christmas can feel like a minefield for someone going through loss. Every song, event, and tree ornament can trigger a memory that can cause grief to swell like a tidal wave. 

Almost everyone I have known dreads the first Christmas after their loved one has died. People will warn you about it, and pray for you through it, and hopefully remember to be extra gentle with you as you face the holidays as a grieving person. 

But what many may not realize is how hard NOVEMBER can be when someone is grieving. And I would like to say clearly: November can really really suck. 

Why? 

Because November sneaks up on you. You don’t gird yourself up for it. You don’t develop strategies for how you will face it. Your grief counsellor probably doesn’t bring it up to discuss what it will be like. People aren’t asking what November is like for you. But then – there it is. 

November is “Christmas is coming!”  November is trees going up all around you. Carols starting to be played on the radio. Friends saying “What are you doing for Christmas?” or “Looking forward to the holidays?” November is lights on houses and starting to Christmas shop and advent candle lighting at church and advertising all the “save the dates!” for Christmas events. 

November is when it hits you: “Christmas is coming –  and I’m going to have to do this without my loved one.” 

And I didn’t think I’d have to do this until December! 

But there it is – in November. The reality:  You will have to grieve your way through Christmas. 

It may not seem fair. “I can handle a couple of hard weeks around December 25,” you might think, “But in NOVEMBER?  Already? Come on people! I can’t do this for 8 weeks!

And then, to add insult to injury, the nights are getting longer and longer, so that each evening seems to give extended time to dwell on your sadness.

You are not alone. For many who are grieving, November is a month of fear, dread, and anxiety as we think:. “How am I going to get through Christmas?”  I will never forget what November was like for me after my sister died. I was putting off Christmas as long as I could. And then I heard a Christmas carol – Jingle Bells. I felt stabbed in the heart, and I started to sob. At Jingle Bells. All I remember thinking was “Oh no…”

If I could have skipped to January then and there, I would have. 

November brings home a harsh reality – you can’t skip Christmas. The world is going to keep going even though part of your world has stopped. And it will feel so unfair.

If you’re grieving this November, I don’t have any solutions for you. Today I wanted to write simply to say: You’re not going crazy. You’re not weird. You’re not alone. November grief is real. 

So, I hope you can be kind to yourself in November. Remember – you don’t have to turn the music on yet. You don’t have to go to the mall. You can wait to RSVP to the Christmas invitations. You can say “I’m not feeling up to it” when someone wants to eagerly chat about their Christmas excitement. You can be honest in your November grief.

And somehow, you’ll get through November. 

And then you’ll get through December. 

And the long, dark nights will start getting shorter again.

 

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