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Coping with Holiday Grief

At holiday time, many people who are dealing with loss are often caught in a dilemma between the need to grieve and the pressure to get into the spirit of the season.  It is important for the bereaved to find ways to take care of themselves.

You may also find the following suggestions helpful:

  • Plan ahead as to where and how you will spend your time during the holidays. Let yourself scale back on activities if you want to. Redefine your holiday expectations. This can be a transition year to begin new traditions and let others go. 
  • Have a special food, service, and/or music that your loved one enjoyed. Remember them by hanging their stocking, lighting a candle, putting out their photograph and including some of their favorite holiday traditions. 
  • Give yourself permission to express your feelings. If you feel an urge to cry, let the tears flow. Tears are healing. Scientists have found that certain brain chemicals in our tears are natural pain relievers. 
  • Shakespeare once said, “Give sorrow words…” Write an “un-sent letter” to your loved one. Expressing what you are honestly feeling toward him or her at this moment. After you compose the letter, you may decide to place it in a book, album or drawer in your home, leave it at a memorial site, throw it away, or even burn it and let the ashes rise symbolically. 
  • When you are especially missing your loved one, call family members or dear friends and share your feelings. If they knew him or her, consider asking them to share some memories of times they shared with your loved one. 
  • If you live within driving distance of the cemetery, decorate the memorial site with a holiday theme. This could include flowers, garlands, ribbons, bows, evergreen-branches, packages, pinecones or a miniature Christmas tree. Decorating the site yourself can be helpful in remembering and celebrating your loved one's life during the holidays, and may free you to cherish the present holiday with your remaining family. 
  • Make sure that you take time for yourself. It is important to try and eat well, rest, exercise, take breaks, ask for assistance, and try not to over do it. 
  • Play music that is comforting and meaningful to you. Take a few moments to close your eyes and feel the music within the center of your being. 
  • Remember the reality that the anticipation of the holidays without your family member is often harder than the actual holidays themselves.