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Preparing for the Holidays

Holidays can be difficult times after the death of a loved one.   Holidays bring fresh memories, re-experiencing the pain of grief all over again.   If the death is recent, you may even feel numb this year, while next year the grief will be fresh all over again.  Plan ahead, accept your limitations, communicate and allow for a little grace.

Some things to keep in mind as you prepare for the holidays:

  • Don’t be surprised at the intensity of your grief. Feelings as well as physical symptoms are stronger during this time.  This is not a set-back, but how grief is.
  • Learn about the grieving process, attend a group, read a book.
  • Think about what has helped you earlier in your grief, and tap into these techniques again.
  • Tell important people in your life that this is a difficult season and let them know what they can do to help. Don’t expect people to remember or to know what to do.
  • Don’t be surprised if others struggle too. Some may hesitate to speak of the person who died, they don’t want to make you sad and are unsure if you want to talk about it.

For many, anticipating the holiday is often more difficult than the actual holiday itself.  Make a plan for the holiday that is approaching.  If it is difficult to think about what you want to do, think about what you don’t want to do.  Discuss your plan with your family.  You cannot ignore the holiday.  It is ok to ask for help, or to change a tradition.   Holidays are a special time to laugh and celebrate, your loved one’s absence will be evident.   Prepare, talk to family, and go ahead and talk about your loved one, and let others know it’s ok for them to do so too.



Adapted from:  Marking Holidays and Anniversaries, by Helen Fitzgerald, CT, Training Director, American Hospice Foundation, November 5, 2002.

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