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Grane Hospice Care Blog

Surviving the Holidays After the Loss of a Loved One

By Grane Hospice Care Staff

When I began writing this blog, I thought to myself, “I remember how hard the first Christmas was when I lost my mother.  It has been 7 years and it’s still tough.”  And, I find it very important to write about how to survive the holidays.  Because the bottom line is that when you miss a loved one, the Holidays are hard and the first is most often the most difficult.  And many times they are hard for a very long time.  However, there are things you can do to get through them, as best as you can. 


With the holiday decorations everywhere and the hustle and bustle of everyone preparing for what is supposed to be a magical time of the year and we cannot imagine how to get through this time without a total breakdown.  The aroma of favorite foods cooking, or the smell of a fresh pine tree, or a certain song on the radio trigger a flow of memories and emotions.  These feelings can be overwhelming, but there are some things you can do to help yourself cope. 


The first is knowing that the Holidays are going to be different, and tough.  Traditions of the past may need to be changed.  There will be traditions to keep and new ones to make.  Keep your loved one in your heart during the holidays.  Talk about memories you’ve shared together.  Talk about your feelings and how the holidays will be challenging.  There may be awkwardness at first, but pretending that everything is OK when it is not makes it harder.  Plan ahead where you will go and what you will do and what you will not do.  Remember when you go to a celebration, you are the one to decide how long you stay.  Try to have a goal in mind and do your best to follow through.  Even when you are with family and friends, everyone grieves differently so they may be in a different place than you. 


Consider a special way to remember your loved with some of the ideas below (be creative):


  • Light a candle in a special place, add a favorite picture as well.
  • Hang a stocking and write some favorite memories to put into it.
  • Include a favorite dish of theirs at the holiday meal.
  • Make a donation to a charity in their honor.
  • Hang a memorial ornament on the tree in their honor.
  • Consider donating your loved ones clothing to a homeless shelter.
  • Put out old photo albums for friends and family to look through during the holidays.

There is no right or wrong way to survive the holidays.  Do what you can.  Do not do what causes too much sadness.  Allow yourself to feel how you feel. It’s OK to be happy and it’s OK to be sad.  If your grief becomes overwhelming, reach out for help.  If your loved one was on hospice, call them and speak to the Bereavement Counselor.  Call a Counselor or Clergy member from your community, talk to friends and family.  There are links below to some very helpful websites that can offer a number of other ideas to help you through this challenging time.


What’s Your Grief:  https://whatsyourgrief.com/64-tips-grief-at-the-holidays/


Journey Through Loss:  https://www.journeythroughloss.com/surviving-holidays-while-grieving/


“How Can I Celebrate the Holidays When I Feel So Sad” by Barbara Karnes, RN



National Suicide Prevention Hotline:  1-800-273-8255

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