How to find support during challenging grief periods or holidays
Asking for help when we’re grieving can be tough. When my mom died, I recognized pretty early on that I wasn’t going to be able to handle my grief alone, but figuring out how to bring the right people in at the right time to support with the right things was challenging.
We spoke with a number of grief experts about how they manage finding support during tough times. One of the key takeaways that all readers should remember is from Naomi Edmondson: “A lot of us have grown up believing we don't want to be a burden or we don't necessarily trust when people show up to support us that they actually know what they're signing up for.” So even though you’re never a burden to those who love and genuinely care for you, know that there’s a very good, universal reason why asking for help is hard.
Read on to hear from all of our guests who shared ways they’ve spent Mother’s Day in the past. They provide guidance for how to confidently and compassionately care for yourself and celebrate your person.
A few things to remember as you navigate a tough holiday
At the end of our event, I asked our panelists to share something that they wish they’d been told to remember before their mom died. Here are their offerings for anyone learning how to make it through this time of year (and any holiday season) while grieving.
Susan: “I've been reading Thich Nhat Hanh book about peace and there’s a quote about how the Lotus flower cannot exist without the mud. And the flowers grow in mud - and that you need garbage to have beauty. For the longest time I felt like my mom's tragic loss was like the worst thing that had ever happened to me. And over time I'm able to see how I've been able to learn a lot and how her death has made me a lot stronger. And so I just want to offer to live in that dichotomy.”
Naomi: “I can offer two things. One of the most meaningful things someone ever said to me on Mother’s Day was, ‘Biologically, being your grandmother didn't mean she wasn't actually your mother.’ Part of loss that isn't addressed is that if you’re mourning a mother figure on Mother’s Day wasn't biologically related to that your loss is not as valid because it wasn't blood. And that's simply not true.”
“The other really wonderful experience that I had actually didn't involve words. I was house sitting for one of my best friends and I was being nosy and I was going up to look in her library to see what books she had. And right outside of her library is a little altar table and on the altar was my mom's funeral program. The minute that I recognized it I just completely broke down. It was just that moment of feeling so seen and so held without her actually knowing that I knew. It really just felt like somebody else saw that I was hurting for this person and they without words were carrying that grief with me and I will probably hold on to that for the rest of my life.”
Introducing our “Griever’s Guide to Mother’s Day” speakers
Shelby Forsythia is the author of Your Grief, Your Way and Permission to Grieve and podcast host of Grief Book Review, Grief Seeds, and Coming Back: Conversations on Life After Loss. After the death of her mother in 2013, she became a “student of grief” and set out on a lifetime mission to study the human experience of loss. Through a combination of practical tools and intuitive guidance, she helps grieving people reclaim their power and peace of mind after death, divorce, diagnosis, and major life transitions.
Susan Lieu is a Vietnamese-American playwright, producer, and performer who tells stories that refuse to be forgotten. With a vision for individual and community healing—made possible through the interplay of comedy and drama—her work delves deeply into the lived realities of body insecurity, grieving, and trauma.
Naomi Edmondson was moved to begin her journey in 2014, after the death of a close mother figure. During her dying process, Naomi unknowingly fell into the role of a Death Guide. She provided a safe, loving space for her to freely express her thoughts around dying. Naomi completed my End of Life Guide training via Going With Grace, assisted as a Student Guide, and trained as a Hospice Volunteer.