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Coping with Grief During the Holiday Season

December 15, 2014

It is always difficult to deal with the loss of a loved one, but it can be especially upsetting during the holiday season. Memories of special holiday traditions with your loved one as well as the general hustle and bustle of the time of year can intensify feelings of loneliness, fatigue and sadness. Feelings of grief can often increase several weeks prior to a holiday and last for several weeks afterward as well.

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While others are celebrating, hanging decorations, and buying gifts, you might have difficulty getting into the holiday spirit and want to wish the holidays away all together. While we can’t eliminate the holidays, we can offer some tips to help you cope:
  • Keep, Change or Adapt Holiday Traditions: Decide in advance which holiday traditions you want to keep, which traditions you want to adapt or if you want to create new holiday traditions. If there is something you have always done at the holidays that might be too painful, try to adapt it or replace it with something new. Harriet Hodgson, a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, makes this suggestion: if your loved one always lit the menorah, your family could take turns this year or you could get an electric or wall hung menorah to use instead. Read more at  Anticipatory Grief and Holidays: 12 Survival Tips
  • Honor the memory of your loved one: Choose something appropriate to honor your loved one’s personality and interests. A Boston woman made an unusual donation in honor of her departed husband this holiday season. According to the Salvation Army website, she anonymously slipped her wedding band, diamond engagement ring and a jeweler’s appraisal into the familiar red kettle along with a note that read in part: In all seasons, my husband was a giver. I especially remember his joy in giving at Christmastime, especially to those in need. To honor his memory, I donate this ring.
  • Keep a grief journal: Journal therapy exercises help to work through your emotions as the holidays approach and throughout the holiday season. Mari’s Journal Writing Power Blog provides details on the practice: begin the therapeutic journaling process by making a list of holiday events and traditions which involved your loved one. Take special note of the details; be specific and write down even the smallest things. It may be an emotional journey so allow yourself to cry and vent as much as needed.
  • Be good to yourself: Keeping your body healthy will help you cope emotionally with your loss. According to the American Cancer Society, it is important to eat right, drink moderately and get enough sleep, especially during the hectic holiday season. Try to avoid holiday candy and cookies to keep your diet healthy. Alcohol is a depressant, so drink in moderation or skip it all together. While getting enough sleep is difficult during the busy holidays, be selective about what celebrations you attend and leave early if needed. You don’t need to do it all!
  • Get support when you need it: Give yourself permission to talk about your loss and the memories of your loved one. Ask for help from others for what you need. Find and talk to others who have lost a loved one. The American Cancer Society is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can help you find support online, local bereavement groups, and other resources. Call 1-800-227-2345

Photo: © Cathy Yuelet/123RF.COM

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