Linnares: Watch out for the 'Grief Grinch' this holiday season

Cris Linnares, Faith, Freud, Flaws & Fargo columnist.
Cris Linnares, Faith, Freud, Flaws & Fargo columnist.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?

It doesn’t matter where you’re from or your religion — I believe you can’t escape being surrounded by the holiday spirit, bright Christmas lights, all the cheerful music, delicious festive treats and corny Hallmark Channel movies that I unapologetically love!

But in the midst of Christmas trees and wrapping papers, there is an extra visitor for some of us. I call him the "Grief Grinch," and if we don’t watch out, he can steal our holiday joy.

This month alone, three of my friends lost their parents. As I visited one of them this week, I tried not to make it about my own pain, but I failed miserably! Losing a dear friend is very hard, and losing a parent or a child is a level of pain that I believe we humans should not experience. Ever.

I still struggle with the loss of my father more than a decade ago. There isn’t single day I don’t think about how much I miss him. My father was my best friend and my hero, and he was the life of the party. With his loud laugh and unforgettable humor, I’ll always remember how he would grab my hand and pull me onto the dance floor at weddings, even when no one else was out there.

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He’d say, “Dance with Papai, my love. Let’s be the first ones to start this party.” Even though I felt embarrassed, I just couldn’t break my dad’s heart with his big smile and even bigger dance moves. The way he expressed his love always made me want to hide my blushing face.

At my dance recitals and basketball games, he would whistle and scream at the top of his lungs my nickname: “Love you “Cristianinha”!("Little Cristiane"). Besides teaching me the curses and blessings of being a die-hard soccer fan, he also taught me to love and live out loud. To dance like everyone is watching us and inspire them to dance along with us.

Then, as this time of the year comes around, when people talk about visiting their parents, I can’t help but notice my heart shrinking as the "Grief Grinch" reminds me that I can’t dance with my favorite dance partner anymore. The Loss Foundation's website gives a poetic description of grief: “You’ll find it comes in waves... the waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them.”

During the holidays, for me, it doesn’t feel like just a wave, but a tsunami! Over the years, I’ve learned the best thing to do is to let the water hit me, roll down my back and allow myself to feel, to remember, to cry and to write…

I know I can’t spend this holiday with my dad, but as I whistle and scream my daughter’s name at her dance recital or when I force my husband to show his Midwestern dance moves at weddings, I feel my dad’s spirit still alive in me, and his presence feels closer than I think.

And when I reminisce on all the memories I miss, I realize my "Grief Grinch" thought something this year it hadn’t before: What if Christmas isn’t just about the present, but also the past we yearn for?

Maybe Christmas, perhaps, is one of the best times to remember the ones we’ve lost just a little bit more.

Recognized by Glamour magazine as a “Hometown Hero,” Cris Linnares is an international women’s coach, psychologist and founder of the Flaw Club. She is also a proud Fargo mom, a Brazilian wife of a Midwest man (who happens to be the publisher) and a self-proclaimed global citizen. Contact her at