Holidays

Grief During the Holidays: Some Tips

The winter holidays are generally perceived as “the most wonderful time of the year.” But for those who are facing grief after the death of a loved one, the holidays may instead be a time filled with pain and sadness.

Even those for whom grief is not as fresh, the holidays may serve as an annual reminder of the loss—not only of that person, but of tradition and celebration.Multi Generation Family Meal

Bereavement professionals working in hospice and palliative care understand how difficult this season can be. They support families coping with loss all year long. Bereavement counselors stress the importance of making decisions that feel right to the grieving person, and giving oneself permission to make new or different choices at the holidays.

Experts in Grief offer some tips:

Be Willing to Change Traditions

Holidays often center on certain traditions and rituals. For some, continuing these traditions without a loved one may be an important way to continue sharing their memory. For others, it may be more comforting to develop new rituals to help lessen the pain and immediacy of the loss.

Help Reduce Stress

While the holidays can be filled with meaning, they can also be filled with pressure and stress because of additional tasks such as shopping, baking and decorating. Grieving people should be encouraged to prioritize what needs to be done, and focus on those projects that may bring them pleasure. Perhaps the gift list can be pared down, cards need not be sent out, or another family member can cook the family dinner this year.

Remember those Who Have Died

The holidays can bring opportunities to remember the person who has died in a way that is personally meaningful. Some families choose to participate in holiday events at a local hospice. Others may choose to share special family stories over a meal. Some may find that making a donation to a special charity or volunteering time to help others in need may be a comforting way to honor their loved one.

The professionals at Houston Hospice know of the importance of providing emotional and spiritual support to those who are grieving but most importantly, they remind us that a person grieving should do what’s most comfortable for him or her during this time of year.

Houston Hospice offers a variety of grief support groups as one way to manage grief. All support groups are open to the public at no charge. If you or a loved one need help, please call 713-677-7131 to learn more.

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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:

HOW WILL I GET THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS?

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.

*EMOTIONAL WISH LIST

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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