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Holiday Grief Tips

As the holidays surround us, the absence of a loved one reminds us that it is not going to be the same this year. It is a time of mental worry and rehearsal of what the season may bring. This may be especially difficult when social contacts and even family think, “you should be over it by now.”

It is a season of uncertainty and loneliness, especially for the elderly grieving an accumulated loss of friends and family. Major changes – a move from the farm to town, failing health or not being able to drive anymore – only contribute to emotional pain.

The holidays have a tendency to make everyone relive childhood feelings surrounding memories and traditions. It is important to have a plan of small changes that may be possible to help decrease stress, while still honoring the holiday and the deceased.

1. Realistically consider how much energy you may have. Grieving is exhausting.
2. Be flexible for ongoing changes.
3. Streamline: Use a deli or go to a restaurant.
4. Give yourself permission to scale down, and allow others to help.
5. Consider making some new traditions.
6. Buy smaller gifts, or give to an angel tree in your loved one’s memory.
7. When invited to a party, say that you “hope” to attend. Go by yourself, so you can leave when you want.
8. Remember ritual. Ritual can be a very powerful method for honoring and remembering a loved one. Consider a toast to them at dinner, or write them cards to place on the tree or grave. Place holly or greenery around their picture to show honor.

While the holidays are difficult, meaningful learning experiences for sharing about the life and personality of the deceased can help one cope during this, and all seasons of life.
- Mary McKenzie, ACSW, ACHP-SW, Bereavement Counselor

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