Coping with Grief and Loss During the holidays

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The holidays, especially the first ones after losing a loved one, are especially difficult for people who are grieving. Often, friends and family members of those affected by a loss are unsure how to act or what to say to support their grieving loved one during the holidays.   

There is also a point of when the ones grieving are unsure how to act as well. They may feel they shouldn’t laugh or feel joyful, due to feeling as if they are disrespecting their loved one that has passed away. On the first holiday after my mom passed away, we still shared presents, and ate large meals, but it was all pretty subdued.

Below are a few suggestions that may help you or someone you know who is grieving cope with the holidays:

Start a new tradition. During a holiday dinner, place a lighted candle on the dinner table, leave an empty chair, or say a few words of remembrance.

Change the celebration. Go out to dinner instead of planning an elaborate meal at home. Or schedule a trip with friends.

Express your needs. People who are grieving may find it hard to participate in all the festivities or may need to let go of unsatisfying traditions. It’s all right to tell people you just aren’t up to it right now or to change plans at the last minute.

Help someone else. It may also help to volunteer through a charitable or religious organization. Make a donation to a favorite cause in memory of the person who died. 

Listen. If he or she wants to talk about the deceased loved one or feelings associated with the loss, LISTEN. Active listening from friends is an important step to helping him or her heal. Don’t worry about being conversational…. just listen.

Give yourself time. The grieving process doesn’t neatly conclude at the six-month or one-year mark. Depending on the strength of the bond that was broken, grief can be life-long. Nevertheless, grief does usually soften and change over time. Never tell someone that he or she should be “over it.” Instead, give the person hope that, eventually, he or she will enjoy the holidays again.

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