Coping with Loss During the Holidays

To Get Through the Holidays After the Loss of a Love One

The holiday season is a time when many families come together for celebrations, warm memories and time-honored traditions. But for many, the holidays can feel like an unwelcome intrusion. The weeks of anticipation and the holidays themselves can be a time of increased pain and loneliness for those who have lost a loved one.

What may seem like the “easy” way to deal with your loss during the holiday season may in reality be the most difficult: trying to make it through the holidays by ignoring your loss, by not talking and sharing your memories of the departed, and by not acknowledging the pain and sadness everyone is feeling. The greatest gift you can give yourself and your family during the holidays is permission to grieve which includes talking and sharing your concerns openly. Finding ways to acknowledge and honor the memory of your loved one during this holiday season can create a special closeness for the whole family. Remember, there is no right or wrong in this process of grieving.

As a family, you can give each other tremendous support once you get past the fear of talking about the person who has died but remains an integral part of your family and the holiday memories you share. Spending a few moments acknowledging your loss may give you the strength you need to reach out to others and allow yourself to enjoy this holiday with your family and friends. The following are suggestions for getting through the holidays:

  • Take care of yourself.
    The added stress of the holidays can be exhausting. Make sure you get adequate rest, eat well, and remember that moderate exercise is a proven stress reliever.
  • Decide what you can handle comfortably.
    Grief can limit your physical and emotional stamina. Would you like assistance with some of the tasks that you have always done in the past like addressing holiday cards, baking or decorating your home? Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to make changes that will alleviate some of the stress you may be feeling. Sharing the holiday activities and tasks may add to the holiday spirit for everyone.
  • Don’t be afraid to suggest a change.
    Do not feel obligated to follow past holiday traditions. You may choose a different time to open presents or you may wish to spend the holidays in a different place. Ask yourself if the holidays will still be meaningful with these changes. Do tell others about your ideas and plans, so that these changes will not come as a last-minute surprise.
  • Do something nice for yourself.
    Eliminate something you have always considered an unpleasant task associated with the holidays. Spend time doing what you enjoy – going to a movie, buying yourself something special, telephoning an old friend. Recognize and rejoice in your inner strength.
  • Do something for others.
    Reaching out beyond your pain and helping someone else during this season of good will can bring comfort and satisfaction. Many organizations – like VNA Meals on Wheels – need volunteers to prepare, serve or deliver meals to families during the holidays and would appreciate your efforts.
  • Concentrate on the good.
    Be patient with yourself and be flexible. Allow yourself to have fun, to laugh – or cry – and enjoy and appreciate the people around you. This is not inappropriate or disrespectful.

There will be time for both sadness and joy during this holiday season.

As you work toward finding some comfort and healing from your loss this holiday, remember you are not alone. Reaching out and sharing your feelings with friends and family is an ongoing tribute to your loved one. VNA offers free bereavement events throughout the year for members of the community grieving the death of a loved one. Please contact VNA Bereavement Coordinator Sue Rafferty at 214-689-2633 for more information.