Coping with Grief During the Holidays

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By: Sara Stone, Licensed Social Worker

Fir branch, candle and  Christmas decorationsThis time of year we’re thinking about celebrating the holidays with family and friends. We’re looking to find joy in making memories and partaking in traditions. Sound perfect, right?  Well, not for everyone. How do we cope with grief during the holidays?

Many who are grieving the loss of a loved one can find these holidays and traditions to be a very challenging time. Holidays can often time magnify the loss, and make some of the traditions feel unbearable.  You are not alone if you find yourself dreading an upcoming holiday or worrying about what or how you will make it through.

For each person, the experience can vary a great deal. This is because grief itself is so very personal.  Many feel that holidays are a time when they need to force themselves to cheer up and go with the flow. That is actually the opposite of what one should be doing.  Because the holidays can often time be a trigger of great emotion, much of which we may not be expecting or ready for, it’s important to give yourself permission to work through your grief and not force yourself to do anything you’re not ready for or comfortable with.

By grieving, we work our way through the pain that we feel over our lost loved one. The grief is our internal feelings, while the pain and sadness is what others may see.  It’s okay to talk about your loss, or reflect on it. Take time to journal, or reflect on the holidays and what areas mean most to you.

Grief.com has a few suggestions on ways to cope:saragrief-support-tag

  • Do allow time for your feelings.
  • Do allow others to help. We all need help at certain time in our lives.
  • Do be gentle with yourself and protect yourself.
  • Don’t do more than you want, and don’t do anything that does not service your soul and your loss.
  • Do, in grief, pay extra attention to the children. Children are too often forgotten grievers.

Sometimes the thought of the holiday approaching may be harder for us than when the actual holiday arrives. Some people welcome the ‘change of pace’ and activity that often times comes with the event.

Another point of consideration is that although the holidays may never be the same after the loss of your loved one, it is a time for you to evaluate how you want your holiday to look or feel.  Do you start a new tradition in honor of your loved one?  This may be as simple as;

  • Leaving a chair open at the table or in the space that you celebrate.
  • Starting a journal about your loved one and inviting family to add happy memories.
  • Doing a balloon release or some other reflection activity such as lighting a special candle in their honor during the holiday celebration.
  • One support group member got a small tree and asked all family members to buy an ornament that they felt reminded them of their father/grandfather. Each of them put the ornament on that tree and every year, the tree has a special place during the winter holiday season.

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Here at Tri-County Health Care we offer several free, monthly support group meetings to the community, including:

1. Adult Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Group

The purpose of this group is to provide a confidential support group for those who have experienced this type of loss to find support, share their story and learn ways to cope. It is open to all adult family members and friends of a loved one who has completed suicide. The groups meets the third Tuesday of the month from 6:30 – 8 p.m. in the Wesley Conference Room in the lower level of Tri-County Health Care.

2. Grief Support Group

Anyone who has experienced a loss is invited to the support group. The group’s purpose is to offer understanding, suggestions for coping, support, friendship, and most of all, hope to bereaved adults. They meet the first Tuesday of each month from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. in the Wesley Conference Room, located in the lower level of Tri-County Health Care in Wadena.

3. Parents Who Have Lost a Child Support Group

This support group is open to all parents who have lost a child of any age, at any time in their lives. They meet the second Monday of the month from 5:30 – 7 p.m. in the Wesley Conference Room at Tri-County Health Care.

Sara Stone

Sara Stone

For more information or questions about the support groups offered, please contact the Medical Social Services office (218) 631-5228. To see a list of all monthly support groups offered by TCHC go here: http://www.tchc.org/education-and-resources/support-groups.

About the Author: Sara Stone, LSW is the Medical Social Services Manager at Tri-County Health Care. The goal of her department is to provide support, education, referrals and serve as a resource to patients and their families regarding all matters of health and well-being.