Dealing with grief during the holiday season

Losing a loved one is hard and can make it challenging to be joyful during the Christmas season.
Losing a loved one is hard and can make it challenging to be joyful during the Christmas season.(KY3)
Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 5:51 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Losing a loved one is complex and can make it challenging to be joyful during the Christmas season. If you lost someone earlier this year or recently, celebrating Christmas without them is difficult.

Leaders at the Lost and Found Grief Center have tips on handling your grief through the holidays and ways to honor their memory. First, step back and take care of yourself. Give yourself space to grieve and heal from the loss. Next, decide what you can handle. Determine what ways you want to celebrate and what traditions you are comfortable carrying on.

Finally, don’t try to compartmentalize your grief or move on too fast.

“I totally understand the tendency to want to just shut down your grief or think that it’s possible to compartmentalize it,” said Nannette Thomas, Program Coordinator at Lost and Found Grief Center. “I think, in small doses, that can be a really good thing. But if you’re thinking of the whole holiday season, I think it’s probably an unrealistic expectation that you could completely shut down your grief. And I think you also miss the opportunity to find ways to remember your loved one and to honor their memory during the holiday season. A more realistic and healthy thing to do is to maybe schedule time to actively remember your loved one and to honor their memory.”

Some of the ways you can honor your loved one are by donating to a cause they cared about or hanging their stocking and writing a letter to the loved one and placing it in that stocking. Another idea is to decorate a tree with ornaments in their memory.

Many of us know someone who lost a loved one this year. Part of the spirit of Christmas is showing others you care. If you know someone dealing with the loss of a loved one and want to show them some support, leaders at the Lost and Found grief center have these tips.

First, respect the grieving person’s boundaries. Some events, traditions, or celebrations may be harder than others. Give your friend the space they need to deal with their loss.

Next, give your friend or loved one grace. Grief can come through as sadness, but it can also trigger angry emotions. Keep in mind that they are not feeling like themselves, and try to be patient with them.

Finally, instead of saying, “If you need anything, let me know,” offer a list of ways you can help them. Offer to make dinner, watch the kids while they go Christmas shopping, or help wrap presents can go a long way.

“When Someone’s grieving, oftentimes they have brain fog, they can’t think clearly just the normal processing that we do during the day, you just have diminished capacity when you’re grieving,” said Thomas. “So being able to give them some choices takes so much pressure off, and it actually ends up being more helpful, and maybe none of the things that you offer to your grieving friend are things that they need. That’s okay. But the fact that you even offered that you were thoughtful enough to come up with a list of things that could be helpful. That means so much to someone who’s grieving”

You’ll also want to be patient with your friend or loved one. Grief can trigger all kinds of emotions, so it’s best to show support in any way you can.

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