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Published on May 27, 2020

Handling Grief During the Holidays

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Holidays and special anniversary days are often difficult for anyone who has experienced the death of someone loved. 

Rather than being times of family togetherness, sharing and thanksgiving, holidays can bring feelings of sadness, loss and emptiness.

Society encourages you to join in the holiday spirit, but all around you the sounds, sights and smells trigger memories of the one you love who has died.

No simple guidelines exist that will take away the hurt you are feeling. 

EvergreenHealth's Grief and Bereavement experts have put together these tips to help you handle your grief during the holidays. 

Please remember that by being tolerant and compassionate with yourself, you will continue to heal.

Talk About Your Grief:  During the holiday season and special anniversary days, don’t be afraid to express your feelings of grief.

Ignoring your grief won’t make the pain go away and talking about it openly often makes you feel better. 

Find caring friends and relatives who will listen without judging you.  They will help make you feel understood.

Be Tolerant of Your Physical and Psychological Limits:  Feelings of loss will probably leave you fatigued. Your low energy level may naturally slow you down. 

Respect what your body and mind are telling you. 

Lower your own expectations about being at your peak during these special times of the year.

Eliminate Unnecessary Stress:  You may already feel stressed, so don’t overextend yourself. 

Avoid isolating yourself, but be sure to recognize the need to have special time for yourself. 

Realize also that merely keeping busy won’t distract you from your grief, but may actually increase stress and postpone the need to talk out thoughts and feelings related to your grief.

Be With Supportive, Comforting People:  Identify those friends and relatives who understand that holidays and anniversaries can increase your sense of loss and who will allow you to talk openly about your feelings. 

Find those persons who encourage you to be yourself and accept your feelings, both happy and sad.

Talk About the Person Who Has Died:  Include the person’s name in your conversation. 

If you are able to talk candidly, other people are more likely to recognize your need to remember that special person who was an important part of your life.

Do What is Right for You During the Holidays:  Well-meaning friends and family often try to prescribe what is good for you during the holidays. 

Instead of going along with their plans, focus on what you want to do.

Discuss your wishes with a caring, trusted friend. Talking about these wishes will help you clarify what it is you want to do during these special times.  

As you become aware of your needs, share them with your friends and family.

Plan Ahead for Family Gatherings:  Decide which family traditions you want to continue and which new ones you would like to begin. 

Structure your time. This will help you anticipate activities, rather than just reacting to whatever happens. 

Getting caught off guard can create feelings of panic, fear and anxiety during the time of the year when your feelings of grief are already heightened. 

As you make your plans, however, leave room to change them if you feel it is appropriate.

Embrace Your Treasure of Memories:  Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved.  And holidays and anniversary dates always make you think about times past. 

Instead of ignoring these memories, share them with your family and friends. 

Keep in mind that memories are tinged with both happiness and sadness.  If your memories bring laughter, smile.  If your memories bring sadness, then it’s alright to cry. 

Memories that were made in love – no one can ever take them away from you

Renew Your Resources for Living:   Spend time thinking about the meaning and purpose of your life. 

The death of someone loved created opportunities for taking inventory of your life – past, present and future. 

The combination of a holiday and a loss naturally results in looking inward and assessing your individual situation. 

Make the best use of this time to define the positive things in life that surround you.

Express Your Faith:   During the holidays, you may find a renewed sense of faith or discover a new set of beliefs. 

Associate with people who understand and respect your need to talk about these beliefs. 

If your faith is important, you may want to attend a holiday service or special religious ceremony. 

As you approach your special days, remember; grief is both a necessity and a privilege. It comes as a result of giving and receiving love. 

Don’t let anyone take your grief away.  Love yourself.  Be patient with yourself.  Allow yourself to be surrounded by loving, caring people.

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