Archive for December, 2015

Holiday Grief: 10 Tips to Navigate the Emotional Minefield

16014834Grief is never more acutely felt than during the holidays, when there is an empty place at the table. As part of its nonprofit outreach, Houston Hospice offers complementary bereavement support to the community. During their pre-holiday workshops, Houston Hospice grief counselors, Marti Nelson and Tammy Zwahr, help the bereaved navigate the minefield of feelings and expectations they’ll encounter with these helpful tips:


10 tips for those who are grieving:

  1. Accept the likelihood of your pain. The energy you would spend evading what is going on around you will be more creatively spend adapting to the reality of what this particular season holds for you.
  2. Feel whatever it is you feel. Recognize the fact that something very important has happened in your life which causes reactions within you. Some of the feelings bereaved people feel include: sadness, depression, anxiety, fear, anger, guilt, and apathy.
  3. Express your emotions. The best means of expression is simple: be yourself. Choose people who will listen and respond thoughtfully. Journaling helps get feelings off your chest, clarifies thinking, and monitors your progress. Use music, pray, dance, or create.
  4. Plan ahead. Give yourself permission to change plans as you go. Talk things over with people whom you usually share the holidays.
  5. Take charge where you can. Evaluate holiday traditions. Some changes may be healthy and important to make. Eat healthfully and drink wisely. Maintain an exercise program or begin one. Get the rest you need.
  6. Turn to others for support. Let others know what you think will help you.
  7. Be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself time to rest. Avoid over committing yourself. Pace yourself on good days and give yourself lots of latitude on “bad” days and accept that grieving people have their share of these days.
  8. Remember to remember. You may have a special linking object which you might carry, wear, use, or place in easy sight. Create small remembrance area at home. Look at photos and talk to others about your life together. Remember the deceased in prayer, with a toast, or by lighting a candle at mealtime. Plant a tree or donate to a favorite charity.
  9. Search out and count your blessings. Stay in the present as much as possible. Savor what there is to savor. Cry and then let the tears pass and see what else you feel. Don’t be afraid to laugh.
  10. Do something for others. You can reach out and offer something of what you have and who you are, even if it feels like it’s only a little. Baby sit, cook a meal, or check on shut-ins. You can drive, shovel, telephone, mow, clean, trim, deliver, type, greet, etc. depending on your interests and abilities.


What would the holidays be like if I could have these wishes granted?

*Adapted from: “Tis The Season to be Jolly?”.  Dr. William Alexy.  Bereavement Magazine, November/December 1989. Reprinted with permission of Bereavement Publishing, Inc. (713-282-1948).

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