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Coping with Holiday Grief

Published: December 8, 2020

The best coping mechanism for the first holiday season is to plan ahead, get support from others and take it easy. 

Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Share your plans with family and friends and let them know of changes in holiday routines. Memories can sometimes be a source of comfort to the bereaved, so share them by telling stories and looking at photo albums.

Set realistic expectations for yourself. Remind yourself that this year is different. Decide if you can still handle past responsibilities and expectations. Examine the tasks and events of celebrating and ask yourself if you want to continue them. Accept others' offers to cook, shop, decorate, etc. Consider shopping by phone, Internet or catalog this year if you feel a need to avoid crowds or memories.

Create a new tradition or ritual that accommodates your current situation. Some people find comfort by honoring traditions, while others find them unbearably painful. Discuss with your family the activities you want to include or exclude this year. Some examples of new rituals and traditions include:

Announce beforehand that someone different will carve the turkey. Create a memory box. Fill it with photos of your loved one or memory notes from family members and friends. Ask young children to contribute drawings in the memory box. Make a decorative quilt using favorite colors, symbols, images or pieces of clothing/fabric that remind you of the person who died. Light a candle in honor of your loved one. Put a bouquet of flowers on your holiday table in memory of your loved one. Visit the cemetery and decorate the memorial site. Have a moment of silence during a holiday toast to honor your loved one. Place a commemorative ornament on the Christmas tree. Dedicate one of the Chanukah candles in memory of your loved one. Write a poem about your loved one and read it during a holiday ritual. Play your loved one’s favorite music or favorite game. Plan a meal with your loved ones’ favorite foods. The most important thing to remember is there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holiday season after the death of a loved one. 

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