Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Grief & The Holidays: A Time of Challenge & Hope


Soon it will be holiday time again and reminders of their loss are everywhere for those who are grieving. Traditionally this is a time of joy, sharing of memories, warmth, peace, and coming together in love.

For those who are grieving, the holidays are also a vivid reminder of those that are so dearly missed. Add to this the common expectation that all should be as it was and many grieving families find the holiday season to be the most difficult time of the year. 

The period after the death of a loved one is a journey through grief. We cannot forget and we cannot bury the pain. It is not easy. Our hearts, minds and bodies are grieving and not functioning in their full capacities, as though part of us is missing. 

Yet, we don’t have to hide from our experience of grief. These are natural feelings–they are all a part of the process–we can share them, we can accept them, we can feel them.


As the holidays approach, start with a blank slate. Accept that you may not have the energy or inclination to accomplish all the things that you or others have come to expect during the holidays. 

Rather than do things automatically, discuss and think about what you really want to do, what you don’t want to do, and what will be difficult but you want to try. We encourage people not to be afraid to make changes in traditions or start new ones.

Equally important is to acknowledge how you feel. It will be a sad time. Many recently bereaved worry they will spoil the holidays for others. According to families Pathways has counseled, the most painful thing is when they try to keep their feelings inside.

If friends or family members take the initiative to talk about the person who has died, it relieves the tension and creates an opportunity for sharing.

While there are no universal methods for healing and coping, there are some concrete things you can do that may make the holidays easier and provide an opportunity to honor those you love who have died.
Acknowledge your grief; accept yourself in whatever mood you find yourself.
  • Remember you are not alone. Attend a remembrance event or grief support group.
  • Make some personal choices based on your level and what is right for you.
  • Give yourself permission to let go of certain traditions–it’s okay to make changes.
  • Share your plans with others; let them know how they can help you.
  • Reserve time to honor your loved quietly, alone or with others: light a candle, place a photograph on the table, share memories, make a memorial donation.
And finally, as you navigate through your grief this holiday season keep your loved one in your heart and remember to care for yourself.