Coping With Grief During The Holidays

Sad elderly man staring out the window during christmas time.

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Grief impacts everyone differently. We all grieve the loss of a loved one in our own way – and in our own time. For some, the grief comes fast and furious, while for others it’s more intermittent, hitting you in waves. But for most people, grieving the loss of a loved during the holidays is particularly difficult as there’s so much emphasis in our culture on feeling extra cheerful; but how can you be merry when one of your favorite people in the world isn’t with you to share the yuletide?

It leaves a lot of people in mourning feeling not only extremely sad, but often self-conscious, the very last thing anyone who is grieving needs to feel. That’s why it’s important to stay connected with others during this ultra-sensitive time, particularly mental health professionals who specialize in bereavement.

At the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA), we understand the importance of grieving. VNA offers anyone in our community who has experienced a loss grief support through our bereavement support groups. These are available in a virtual format and offer the opportunity to share your challenges, express emotions and connect with others who might understand what you’re going through. 

If you or someone close to you is struggling with the loss of a loved one this season, here are some suggestions on ways to cope from VNA’s Bereavement Supervisor, Melissa King:

  • Make a plan where you would like to spend the holidays. Inform others of your preferences. Be flexible. Accept your limitations.
  • Adjust your expectations. You can begin new traditions or let others go.
  • Give yourself permission to express your feelings. Cry. Share stories. Laugh.
  • Enjoy music that is comforting and meaningful to you and your loved one.
  • Give a monetary gift in honor of your loved one’s favorite cause or charity.
  • Light a candle in honor of your loved one. Say a prayer or read a poem.
  • Prepare your loved one’s favorite dish or leave out their favorite sweets for others to enjoy.
  • Avoid “all or nothing” thinking. Every hour does not need to be joyful or filled with activity. Avoid “should” statements which lead to guilt or regret, and
  • Drive yourself to holiday events if possible (or take an Uber). If you feel you need to leave prematurely then you will not feel obliged to burden someone else with an early departure.

This year, recognize the holiday season will be different. It does not mean you have to be joyful. Just do what you can and allow yourself to feel what you feel, surrounding yourself with non-judgmental family and friends. It is okay to avoid the holidays all together, they will come back around next year. Melissa’s final tips, and most important suggestions, are to be kind to yourself, do what feels right and avoid unnecessary stressors. If that means taking a relaxing bubble bath by candlelight while everyone’s at your neighbor’s party, that’s just fine. You can always celebrate the holidays next year, when you’re up to it.

If you would like to learn more about VNA’s Hospice Bereavement Support Groups, please visit here.

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