Eight tips for grieving through the holidays

Isabel3747wIsabel Stenzel, MSW, MPH, Bereavement Social Worker, Mission Hospice

The holiday season can be a difficult time for those who have recently lost a loved one. While others are celebrating, the bereaved may feel isolated, with intensified pangs of longing for their loved one. These tips may help grievers survive the holiday season.

  • Be kind to yourself. Find the balance between what needs to be done and what you are capable of doing. Try not to judge yourself if you have to say no.
  • Accept your feelings. Be mindful about feelings of sadness and loneliness; just acknowledging these difficult feelings will often allow them to pass more quickly than if you keep avoiding them.
  • Ask for help. Turn to your family and friends when you need support.
  • Take care of yourself physically. Eat well and get plenty of sleep. Try to get moderate physical exercise. Try relaxation exercises when you feel tension in your body.
  • Change something. So many things have already changed. Be open to changing some traditions.
  • Let go of perfectionism. Release your vision of what a perfect holiday needs to be. Open yourself up to spontaneity and unexpected moments.
  • Consider a ritual. Consider a new ritual to recognize the absence of a loved one. A candle lighting, a symbolic gift, a tree planting or writing a letter to a loved one can be new family traditions to help you connect to your beloved departed.
  • Look for joy in the moment. Joy happens when you look for it. Live in the present.

Renowned grief researcher Ken Doka, PhD, recommends that the most important things grievers can do for themselves during the holidays are the three Cs:
Choose what works for you; communicate what you need; and compromise with others who want you to engage in holiday traditions.

Isabel leads our Grief and the Holidays support group. Seasonally, details about this group are available on our calendar of events.