Both And

I hear confusion from those who grieve in this holiday season because they experience conflicting emotions. The collision between the expectations of holiday happiness and the personal reality of grief can create confusion. “My feelings go back and forth from the sadness I feel from my loss this year to the excitement I used to feel for the holidays, and then back to sadness.” “I found myself looking forward to a holiday party and then suddenly my excitement turned to tears.”

Enter into this season in a state of mind of “both and” rather than “either or.” Sorrow does not exclude all joy, and celebration does not eliminate all sorrow. Yet it can be confusing to experience opposing emotions at the same time or feel your mood vacillate between light and dark. Joy may transition into sadness in the blink of an eye. Contentment may suddenly shift into yearning for your loved one.

All of these feelings are important even if they appear in conflict because they are part of your grief story during this season. Be open and accepting of both the joy and the sorrow in this holiday time.

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Dr. Patrick O’Malley is a psychotherapist in Fort Worth, Texas, specializing in grief counseling. For 35 years, he has counseled individuals, couples and families in his private practice. Dr. O'Malley has recently published a book, "Getting Grief Right" about grief recovery.

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