Having lost my mother nearly 10 years ago, there is one thing I know for certain — grief never fully goes away. It lives in your bones and in your gut, and just as both of those things change with age, so does your grief. Certain things though have gotten easier, for example, I can now listen to Simon and Garfunkel and only cry a light misting of tears rather than a full-on hurricane. I can attend weddings and not audibly sob, just silently. I have even started to sort through my mother’s clothes with a more rational sense of what is sentimental and what isn’t; I have determined I don’t need to keep all of her socks.
But there is one time of year where the grief comes back with full vengeance, ready to stick you like a saber straight to the heart, where she knocks down your door and laughs manically saying “You didn’t really think you were done with me, did you?”. And when does she do that, you ask? The holidays, of course!
Do you feel like those gift guides by a celebrity you don’t care about just aren’t doing it for you, because when you read those lists you just think of that person you wish could buy whatever new air fryer or weighted blanket or $100 candle they’re selling you, but instead are reminded they are no longer with us? If so, this list is for you. I’ve compiled ten tips for my fellow grievers because hey, you shouldn’t have to go through all the pain and suffering alone, not when it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
This is especially dedicated to all the friends who say “I’m always here for you” or “I’m just a phone call away” or “you’re not alone, you always have me.” Now is their chance to prove it!
1. Constantly remind everyone of their own mortality.
If the past two years haven’t been enough, double down. Since your grief reminds you every waking minute of every dripping hour of every single day how precious life is and how quickly it can go away, it’s only fair to let your friends in on the secret. For example: “See that bus?” You say casually as it passes in the distance. “Yeah,” they respond. “I could push you in front of it and you could die! That’s how fleeting life is!” A perfect lesson learned.
2. Relive your dreams.
You know those haunting dreams you have of your loved one visiting you from the grave that a clairvoyant you paid too much for reassured you was a real visit and that not even Ambien will turn off? Put them to use! Invite your friends over to do a reenactment to post on TikTok. We all have to go viral to stay relevant somehow and if a live action version of your dead mother coming to visit you by busting out of the kitchen cabinet isn’t ripe content, I don’t know what is!
3. Cry loudly in public.
You have probably already tried this a million times, but you really need to go in on this one as your Oscar performance. There’s nothing quite like capturing the hearts of strangers who have no emotional stakes in your life. When someone asks if you are OK, pull them in and tell them all the terrorizing bits and bobs about your grief. You live with the memory of the sour scent of funeral home potpourri every day! The least someone else can do is hear about it — through your gasping tears.
4. Grievers night out!
Gather a group of fellow grievers and go out for a night on the town. Pulli up to your hometown bar with like minded friends in emotional pain. Once there, always order two drinks, one for you and one for the person/people you’ve lost. You deserve both and once the bar finds out it’s a drinking club for the dead, you should get everything for free. If not, Yelp their asses.
5. Buy one dozen donuts and do not share.
Even if you despise donuts, there is a theater to their culture that we all have to occasionally participate in. We get to take the power back from a food that has been iconically marketed to share and do with them what we please. So much of what we deal with in grief is accepting what we cannot change, and now, everyone around us will have to accept the fact that they aren’t getting a donut. And if you do decide to dip into that delicious box of fried dough? Make everyone watch!
6. Max out a credit card (doesn’t have to be yours).
There simply is no better way to deal with pain than spending an absurd amount of money on yourself. Whoever doesn’t fully support you in plunging head first into credit card debt this time of year is a bad friend! Now I know that buying a Porsche, a Hermes Kelly Bag, a few simple T-shirts from The Row and a Loro Piana cashmere sweater isn’t going to bring my mom back, but it will, momentarily, fill the gaping hole that was drilled into my heart.
8. Be an unbearable bitch.
Why suffer alone when you can make everyone around you suffer too? Treat yourself to a day where you are truly awful — I mean Satan’s spawn level clownery — to everyone you love. It probably won’t make you feel good, but it will definitely make everyone else around you feel bad, and if there’s one thing you’ve learned from losing someone you love it’s that life is all about balance.
9. Bring along the urn.
You should never have to attend any event solo, let alone a holiday one. So why not bring the urn containing the ashes of your dearly departed loved one? It’s basically the same as bringing a person, if you believe in the afterlife and all. Don’t have ashes to accessorize your look with? That’s OK! A 16x20 photo will suffice.
Always remember your loved one lives inside of you and in your heart forever. You carry their spirit with you no matter where you go, even when you find yourself at that holiday party you didn’t want to go to but felt too guilty to skip. Of course, when you get there, that Christmas song that always makes you cry comes on, but you choke it back with a glass of eggnog you didn’t want but took because the host complained no one else was drinking it. When you take another sip, your middle school crush who you’re still not over walks in and you immediately make eye contact while simultaneously snarfing egg nog on that Loro Piana cashmere you bought. Now you’re left really holding back tears as your future flashes before your eyes and realize this is exactly where our deceased loved ones would want us to be — standing alone under a mistletoe in a $3,000 sweater you destroyed with cinnamon mucus and nutmeg snot. Such are all of the glimmering tokens of hope from those who have departed coming our way….. and mostly just a sign that you were right, and when in doubt stay inside and never leave. With your urn beside you.
Greta Titelman is an incredibly talented comedian, actor and writer. She is proudly bicoastal.