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Coping with Loss at the Holidays

With the upcoming holidays, those who are trying to recover from the death of a loved one are often overcome with anxiety, stress, sadness and loneliness. Family and friends will encourage you to carry on as you always have, not realizing that the sights and sounds of the holidays will trigger fond memories of joyful times shared with the loved one who has died.

While there is no proven way to fix the painful feelings you are experiencing, there are suggestions that can be helpful during this time of year. Remember that these feelings are not limited to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Feelings of loss are also associated with birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or any special day where your loved one’s absence can trigger grief of the loss.

Be sure to talk to your family and friends as you plan for the holidays. Discuss setting aside a special time to honor the one who has died. Do not carry on as if nothing has changed. Remember that grief will add to your already busy schedule. You may become fatigued quickly, and without proper rest and attention, it may lead to additional physical and mental stress you do not need. Do not feel remorseful if you cannot find it in your heart to be cheerful. Ignoring your feelings to please others around you will only worsen the burden and awkwardness you are feeling.

Finding new family traditions may be hard for some, but it can also be very therapeutic. Remember that you are not changing traditions to forget the memories; you are creating ways to lessen the grief. You are also occupying some of your alone time with planning and finding new ways to honor the memory of your loved one. Seek out family members and friends that are supportive and that you feel comfortable talking about your feelings with. Remember that there are people who could use your help during the holidays. Volunteering may be a way to move away from your worries and grief while finding a new tradition as well. This can be especially rewarding if the charity you are supporting was one that held a special place in your loved one’s heart.

As you approach the holidays it may be a good time to look to your faith. You may want to attend a special holiday memorial service or a religious ceremony for the holidays. Remember it is okay to cry and to talk about your feelings. Asking for help and support and knowing you physical limits are important.

While you would expect the grief of the loss to lessen over the months and years, many find that the second holiday season can be more painful than the first. Often the first holiday season you are still experiencing shock of the loss. Over time, you may not be able to recall the memories from that first year after the loss of your loved one. During the second season, the level of emotional support can be less because family and friends are not aware of your feelings. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings with them. If you feel lost during this time of the year, please know you are not alone, and there are others who are experiencing the same things. Always know that there are family members, friends, churches, and support services there for you.

Leigh Ann Lewis is a Certified Funeral Service Practitioner with Blackburn and Ward Funeral Home in Versailles, Kentucky. She produces a periodic blog for Bluegrass Care Navigators as a service to the community.

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