The holiday season is upon us. For many it can be the most wonderful time of the year, but, for others, it can be the loneliest. If you have lost a loved one or suffered a breakup with a spouse/significant other or friend, the holiday season is a constant reminder of the loss. Grief at any time of the year is painful, but it feels especially traumatic during the holidays. 

I recently had a conversation with grief expert, David Kessler, in which we spoke about the stages of grief and how the feelings that accompany a loss can be heightened during the holiday season. While it’s natural to try to suppress the painful memories, according to David, “Healing doesn’t mean forgetting, it means remembering with more love than pain.” And, he says, that happens with time.

To better understand what you may be feeling, David explained the stages of grief, which were created by Elizabeth Kubler Ross and he adapted. David cautioned that these stages do not necessarily occur in order, and they may repeat.

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The first stage is denial. This is the disbelief that a person is gone. It is the shock at the loss and the changes that will now occur in your life.

The second is anger. David said that most of us do not allow ourselves to feel angry at the loss. He remarked that he is amazed that we will get mad at traffic, but not the loss of a significant other.

The third stage is bargaining. Before the loss, this is what is promised if the event doesn’t occur. After a death or loss, this is the regret and/or guilt that haunts. What if something had been done differently, would the outcome be different?

The fourth stage is depression. David believes that situational depression is the sadness that is felt after a loss. Someone is gone and that situation is depressing. Society tells us we are broken and cannot make it through the pain, but David says we are not broken, we are sad, and we have the strength to get through this. It’s going to be devastating, but it can be survived.

And finally, acceptance. This doesn’t mean the loss is liked or okay, but it is accepted. The reality of the loss is acknowledged.

David added that he has developed a sixth stage, which he calls meaning. This is when we find and make meaning after a loss. This is the mother who starts an organization after the loss of a child, or the woman who follows a passion project after a divorce, etc.

Loss can be life-changing and overwhelming, and at times the pain will be unbearable. But, over time, the pain will transform and life will be more reminiscent of what is familiar.

I know in my own life, the pain from the deaths of my parents and siblings was excruciating for a very long time. But now, when I think of those who are gone, I remember with more love than pain. And, you will too!

To hear my complete interview with David Kessler visit: