Sometimes I have to remind myself of these very words. This coming December, my dad will have been gone exactly four years. That’s four years without my mentor, my rock, and my shoulder to lean on. Four years without a father, a husband, and a grandpa. And four years without a friend.
One thing I can say though is that these past four years have opened up my eyes and my ears to things much deeper than day-to-day life...
I look at people differently, I view myself more compassionately, and I listen more while analyzing less. Most importantly, I cherish the relationships I’ve created, whether they be good or bad, as each and every one has taught me something about life.
For those of you who don’t know much about my history or why I chose to be in the field of health and wellness, here’s a quick backstory...
My dad passed away from a serious stroke nearly four years ago. It was his second stroke in 3 years, but this one was different. This one put him in the ICU for nearly three months, where he took one step forward while taking two steps back. This stroke stemmed from high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high blood sugar that he developed in the last few years of his life. All in all, my dad was always good at taking care of everyone else but himself. And it finally caught up with him in October of 2013.
Losing my dad showed me how important your own health and wellness is, and how without it, it can directly impact those closest to you. If you don’t have your health, you literally have nothing.
So here I am; living in Bozeman, Montana, as a certified personal trainer, a holistic health coach, wellness educator, community builder, and whatever other title I decide to use, helping everyday people prevent a problem, rather than react to one. It’s been a weird, rocky road, but I’m slowly figuring out the life I was meant to live with the zeal and stubborness of my dad in my back pocket.
This time of year can be especially rocky. It’s supposed to be about getting together with friends, spending time with your family, and holding those you love closest to you.
Now, I still get to do all of that. I have built great relationships with both friends and family that I wouldn’t trade for the world, yet, there’s still a void I feel during this time of year without having my dad around.
Now, I know there are a lot of you out there dealing with similar situations so I wanted to share what has helped me in dealing with grief during the holidays. Whether it’s a family loss, a divorce, a broken friendship, or a missed opportunity, I want to let you know that you’re not alone.
Here’s how I deal with grief during the holiday season.
Mindfulness can do amazing things. For example, it can help you eat better by knowing what foods affect things such as your energy, mood, and digestion by tuning in and becoming aware of your body.
The same goes for emotions. By knowing what situations, the types of conversations, or even the relationships you have that trigger those negative thoughts are the ones that can become avoidable. Don’t analyze things too deeply and merely accept things for what they are. This takes the emotional aspect out of it and allows you to just see, recognize, and accept it.
Mindfulness can completely change your life if you let it, but it definitely doesn’t happen overnight. It can be practiced on a daily basis in ways such as meditating right before bed, sitting down for your meals away from the TV, or holding a raisin for 10 minutes and writing down everything (and I mean everything) you can see, hear, smell, feel, and taste about the raisin. Little practices such as this will help you build up your mindfulness for day-to-day living.
If you would have told me a couple of years ago that I would be writing a post about my father’s death for thousands of eyes to read, I would have called you crazy. For a year after losing my dad, I wouldn’t have been able to write this because for that year I wasn’t ready….and that’s completely okay.
Grieving takes time and so does healing. Just like losing weight or building muscle, you can’t force yourself to get back to where you want to be in the blink of an eye. Emotions take time, and you should be realistic with each and every one. Don't fight them. Embrace them.
Keeping busy will help keep your mind off of the things you might not want to think about. Constantly thinking about the hard things in life is both emotionally and physically exhausting. We all need that mental break from this thing we call “life” and what better way than taking on a few extra projects this time of year or starting a new fitness class. Something that is both challenging, yet enjoyable will do the most good.
I always find myself going to the gym a lot more during this time of year or taking more trips. It helps keep my mind focused and off of the emotions that are sometimes too draining. Channel your energy elsewhere.
Give a family member or a longtime friend a call or maybe ask your brand new coworker out for coffee. Building up new and growing old relationships can release those feel-good endorphins by allowing for free-flowing conversation.
Human interaction is a powerful thing. Hold your lover a little tighter, catch up with your closest sibling, or maybe just smile at a passer-by. Connect with others and you won’t feel so alone.
Don’t Become Stagnant
There is a time and a place to grieve, and you most definitely should. What it shouldn’t do is hold you back from living out your life to its full potential.
Keep working towards something in the foreseeable future. Set goals for yourself both professionally, physically, and emotionally. Make sure these goals are measurable. Seeing the results of your hard work is one of the most rewarding aspects of life. Maybe it's hitting a sales goal or being able to do 10 pull-ups instead of 6 -whatever it is that you’re working towards, don’t stop working.
I work on my emotions each and every day. Some weeks are bad, some weeks are better, and I know my grief will never fully go away. And honestly, I'm not sure I want it to. It shows me I’m human, and it shows me what a huge, positive impact my dad had on my life. I wouldn’t change that for the world.
What I do want is to own my power; my power to grieve, my power to love, my power to improve. Knowing that I have that power helps me charge through the holiday season and any situation that may arise. Own your power.
Happy holidays <3