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Holidays for Those Who Grieve

Lisa Balster, MA, MBA, LSW, CHA
Director of Care, Patient and Family Support Services
Pathways of Hope

The holidays come each year, whether we feel ready to celebrate, or not. For those grieving the loss of someone they love, this time of year can present a challenge in many ways: emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.

It takes significant energy to grieve the death of a loved one. Feeling tired, drained, and sad are all part of the journey. The holidays add extra activities to our already full schedules, and can be overwhelming. It is important that grieving people decide for themselves which activities they will participate in, and which ones they will decline this year. Save energy for activities that have the most personal meaning, and will soothe the heart and mind.

One thing that can help us cope with a special day is to do something to acknowledge the lost loved one early in the day. Grieving people often say that this frees them to enjoy the rest of the day, to be as present as possible with others. Something as simple as lighting a candle, putting a picture of the person in a special place, or leaving an empty chair for a loved one who has died are all powerful ways of remembering a loved one.

The exercise below can help with decisions about how to spend your precious time.

Holiday Activities/Tasks:

When grieving, it is important to know that you can choose how your holidays will be. Some people find comfort in enjoying the same traditions. Others choose to forego the usual traditions altogether. Still others choose to simplify their holiday routine, leaving more time for rest and reflection. What you choose is completely up to you. You can add your own traditions to this basic list and use this as a tool to help you choose which activities you wish to give priority or omit this year.

Making grocery lists
Shopping for groceries
Baking for gifts
Baking for special meals
Cooking special meals
Transporting special meals to another location
Helping prepare meals for another
Helping prepare meals at church/place of worship
Helping prepare meals at charity

Gifts for immediate family members
Gifts for friends
Gifts for acquaintances/neighbors
Establish budget
Establish gift list
Shopping for gifts
Wrapping gifts
Charitable Gifts

Social Gatherings and Outings:
Immediate Family
Extended Family

Peace to you and those you love this holiday season.

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