Grieving and Coping with Loss over the Holidays

by Mary R. Morgan L.M.S.W.

For anyone experiencing the loss of a loved one, especially the loss of a twin, the holidays can represent a daunting challenge. The grief and the void we feel are accentuated as it is experienced in relation to the high expectations we have for loving interactions with family and friends. For a twin whose life has revolved around the other twin, holiday celebrations become even more challenging.

The death of your loved one may be experienced by other members of your family and by your loved one’s friends, however, it is important to understand that deep personal loss is unique to each individual, and the grieving process is experienced and expressed in many different ways. The grieving process also takes different lengths of time depending on the individual circumstance.

Listen for, honor, and believe in your individual experience and in your personal feelings. In doing that, you can move to be able to feel entitled to let go the expectations others have of you, as well as the expectations you might have for yourself during normal holiday celebrations. Craft a holiday time that fits the truth of where you are and supports your healing path. Holidays are a time of remembering. We heal in experiencing the emotional memory of our loved one’s life and our relationship to her or him, and by expressing those memories in some form. In that process, our loved one and/or our twin are honored and we slowly release the pain of the physical loss of his or her life.

Knowing that we heal in this necessarily challenging and often deeply painful way, and that the holidays will bring unfulfilled expectations and painful memories, how can we craft a holiday or meet a set holiday tradition in a way that is healing but not overwhelming? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Listen for and decide what you can comfortably handle and let your friends and family know your feelings. Try to make suitable changes in a family celebration, and if you are not able to do so, feel free to go to a different environment and create your own unique celebration where you can express your personal feelings.
  • Share your feelings with a close friend. Another person who is grieving or another twinless twin is in a unique position to understand.
  • Recognize your loved one’s presence in your family celebration. Someone suggested the wonderful idea of having a stocking for your loved one, where family members put in notes with their thoughts and feelings. Another suggested that you light a candle in your loved one’s memory. Have a family experience that incorporates doing something your loved one or twin especially enjoyed during the holidays.
  • Recognize that the grieving experience takes enormous personal and physical energy, especially during holidays. It is a step-by-step process. You are integrating the loss of someone who was of seminal importance to your life. Be kind to yourself. Pace yourself; get enough rest; do things when you are ready – not before.
  • Try to share and connect with others, with animals, with nature – healing takes place in connection with all forms of life.
  • If you are alone, try to get up the courage to do something entirely different this holiday – something that supports and honors your needs and spirit.
  • Healing is an up and down experience, especially during the holidays. If your feelings are happy, express them. In healing, you are honoring your loved one’s life. It is larger than their death.
  • Consider doing something for someone else. Touch someone else with your presence. It helped me to do this in my twin’s memory.

As we heal by expressing the emotional memories of our lost physical relationship, we begin to slowly experience these memories without pain. This happens also as we are slowly accepting the reality of the loss of our loved one as a physical presence in our lives. Most important, we realize that the essence of our relationship with them can remain with us. And, as we heal, holiday celebrations, like these memories, can once again become something we look forward to and enjoy. Our loved one/our twin is there in our hearts, nourishing our new connections and relationships. Their everlasting love remains with us as a gift.