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How to Cope With Loss Over the Holidays

How to Cope With Loss Over the Holidays

Grief in any form is difficult at any time of the year, but the holidays can be especially painful for those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one. With all the bright lights, holiday spirit and family celebrations that surround us, thoughts of loss and loneliness can overtake one with feelings of sadness, leaving one to wonder if there may be something wrong with him or her. These thoughts may also lead one to question whether the holidays can continue to hold any meaning. 

To help cope during this difficult time, I encourage those experiencing loss to not only remember your loved one, but to also give yourself permission to not define yourself by your ability to fit in to the spirit of the season. 

Listed below are some suggestions that you may find helpful to cope with the holidays if experiencing loss:

  1. Normalize your feelings. Know that the sadness, anger, helplessness or whatever you are feeling is normal. Give yourself permission to grieve. When people ask you, “How are you doing?” you have the right to answer them honestly if you choose to do so.
  2. Ask yourself, “What do I want to do this year?” You may find it helpful to try to keep things as “normal” as possible for the sake of continuity. What are your traditions around the special seasons? Or, if it is too great a burden this year, give yourself permission to do something different, or start a new tradition.
  3. If at all possible, surround yourself with family and people who care. Probably the most difficult thing to do is to be alone.
  4. Remember your experience of loss is YOUR experience – don’t let others define what’s normal for you. If you are experiencing grief due to the loss of a loved one, you might want to do the following:
    • Display a picture or other special memorabilia of your loved one.
    • Include memories of the person in your conversations.
    • Light a special memory candle.
    • Donate to a charity in your loved one’s memory.
    • Write your loved one a letter, or share your thoughts with family if you feel comfortable doing so.
    • Prepare your loved one’s favorite food in his/her memory.
    • Be creative in ways to remember your loved one.
  5. Get plenty of rest and eat appropriately. Grief can be tiring work, especially during the holidays.  Exercise can also help.
  6. Seek out support from your spiritual leader or other professional counselor.
  7. Do something special for yourself.
  8. Tap into your spiritual resources.
  9. Accept the gift of peace and remember the following saying about peace:
    “It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work, but it instead means to be in the midst of those things and to still have calm in your heart.”
    - Author unknown 

Ochsner Health System offers grief support services through its Spiritual Care and CPE Department office at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans. The office can be reached at (504) 842-3286. 

Post authored by Cindy Graber, Manager of Spiritual Care and Education at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans.

Chaplain Cindy Graber is the Manager of Spiritual Care and Education Department for Ochsner Health System at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans. She is an ordained Elder in the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. Rev. Graber completed a Bachelors degree from Centenary College of Shreveport, Louisiana in Theater Arts.  She holds a Masters degree in Public Administration from Texas A&M. She completed her Masters of Divinity at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas, and is also a Board Certified Chaplain with the Association of Professional Chaplains.

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