Dealing with Grief During the Holiday Season

With Thanksgiving here and Christmas just weeks away, the season can bring sadness for those who have lost a loved one during the past year. When a spouse, parent or close friend dies, observances of holidays and celebrations without that person around can be difficult.

Hope Hospice chaplain John Wilson urges those who have lost a loved one to enjoy the company of others. “Don’t deprive your friends and family the joy of your presence.”

Friends and family should remember the departed at holiday time and “tell that person’s story. It’s okay to remember and talk about him or her,” says Wilson. “It gives everyone concerned permission to acknowledge the grief and loss.”

Wilson urges survivors to “work to establish new traditions. If the family gathered at grandma’s house every year and now she’s gone, maybe consider getting together at another family member’s house instead.”

Sometimes groups of couples will not invite a surviving spouse to holiday celebrations, presuming that he or she might feel out of place as a widow/widower. Wilson says, “Don’t leave her or him off your guest list due to the loss. Yes, the person might be uncomfortable, but let him or her make that decision.” An invitation to visit with old friends may go a long way toward helping a surviving spouse cope with holiday season sadness, reminds Wilson.

In his role as Hope Hospice chaplain, Wilson has found that, for some, the prospect of a loved one’s yet-to-come passing may be as hard to face as the grief that follows death. For those who may be thinking such thoughts as “this will probably be dad’s last Christmas,” Wilson urges “enjoy these moments and engage that person as much as possible.”

Wilson suggests that surviving spouses make an meaningful effort to be around other people at holiday time. Attending a holiday church service or dining at a holiday buffet can ease the feeling of solitude. Wilson suggests survivors reach out to friends and family by phone or by online social networks such as Facebook.

John Wilson says the best way to deal with holiday sadness is to “do what’s comfortable for you. And what’s comfortable depends on where you are in the grief process.”

If you need grief counseling this holiday season or seek information about hospice care, please call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.

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