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Jan 18, 2017

Holiday (Good) Grief

This is literally a blog from the road, inspired by my ongoing Christmas related travels.

I had refrained from writing yet another blog on all the difficulties of the holiday season because the internet seems to be full of them. From information on how to handle our obnoxious mother in laws to how to deal with criticism of the food we bring, in the last few weeks I’ve read them all.

Blogs on the loss of relationships and loved ones on are floating around as plentiful as snowflakes this time of year. I was really beginning to wonder if it’s still alright to enjoy holidays at all - and, I wanted so badly to stay away from that, but here I am with a holiday reframe.

Years ago my family lost my beloved Granny just before Christmas. It was a really difficult time for all of us that it’s still hard to take out and examine. It hurts so much that I often tuck it away until after the holidays for fear of needing a lot of processing time and not wanting to be a total Debbie Downer around everyone.

Today something happened that was just like the universe tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “Let’s do this now. It’s ok!”

My Granny was famous in our family for her cinnamon rolls. There was no better breakfast and still isn’t for me to this day. These aren’t run of the mill rolls. They take hours to make. I didn’t really understand that as a kid. I’d just ask for them and there they were in the morning. I didn’t realize they had to rise twice, be kneaded, left to rise again. When I was munching cinnamon rolls in the mornings as a kid my Granny had been up for a few hours making them. The amount of love that goes into these seemingly small acts is the type of thing we really only understand in reflection years later.

So, I’ve been making those since she passed and every time trying to get them just right. It’s not just food, it’s a memory, and it isn’t just a memory, it’s an “I love you” to whoever eats them. They’ve played a big part in my grief process.

I was sitting in a parking lot while my husband grudgingly went inside JC Penny to finish a final purchase when my Wyomingite coworker texted me asking for the recipe so she could make the rolls for her nieces. She lives in Texas away from her family. Her trips to her home state are especially cherished - and fun for me to hear about and watch on social media too. I can see and hear how much she loves her family.

My brain immediately flipped over to thinking about the cinnamon rolls and how much love my grandmother put into them, how much love goes in when I make them. I teared up a little missing my sweet grandmother, and then smiled - two kids a thousand miles away get some love from my family via cinnamon rolls. I thought about wearing my Granny’s aprons and making things in her kitchen (mostly messes). My favorite memories circled and while it hurt thinking about the loss we’ve felt, I felt comforted that some things never change.

Good food and love are nearly always there to be found if we look. It’s partly about being brave enough to look and share.

I texted her back and said she could have our recipe on the condition that her nieces helped bake them and that I got pictures. Though they don’t know it, seeing tiny smiling faces covered in flour and stuffed with cinnamon rolls made this winter much easier for me. They carry on a tradition of doing for those we love and that was the most memorable and beautiful thing about my Granny.

Holidays are hard, but stuffing things down, holding them back, or avoiding them is just as much work as dealing with them.

There are tricks to working through hard times of year after a loss or unexpected event. Mine for remembering, honoring, and working through my ongoing grief with this loss just happens to taste awesome and involve some serious mindfulness while mixing, making, and baking - double bonus points for me.

I encourage anyone approaching a special day, holiday, or anniversary to be mindful of what may get you “down” and to creatively approach that day. Explore your memories - even if they bring some sadness, grief, or anger - and find something you can do to honor those memories that are meaningful to you, rather than just deep breathing your way through them.

Happy (late) Holidays!

Whitney White is a counselor working in Texas in multiple settings with diverse populations. Some of her areas of passion are anxiety, non-suicidal self-injury, and compassion fatigue. With an integrated approach utilizing client strengths, she supports others in achieving their best self. For more information please visit The thoughts expressed in Whitney’s blogs do not represent her employers. 



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