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4 Ways to Cope with Loss during the Holiday Season

loss during the holidays

The holidays often bring joy and merriment, but if you’ve lost a loved one in the past year, they can also be emotionally tough. Anne Alesch, MDiv., bereavement coordinator at UnityPoint Hospice, gives families four ways to approach the holidays after experiencing loss.

  1. Set expectations. “Realize the holidays are going to be different. Talk to family and friends about what you want the holidays to look like, discussing which traditions you want to continue and which you want to be different. Knowing you have the power to decide these things can be helpful.”

  2. Create special ways to remember loved ones. “While each family and situation is unique, there are a couple activities that work well for many. One is lighting a candle in memory of a lost loved one, as a candle can add a sense of presence honoring that person. Another is having everyone share a favorite memory of the loved one.”

  3. Share emotional struggles. “Give yourself and others permission to openly share emotional struggles. Name and state the reality of the situation, such as, ‘It’s really hard without Uncle John here this year.’ This acknowledges the painfulness and also gives others the space to talk about it, if they want, too.”

  4. Recognize signs of grief. “Like coping, everyone experiences and processes grief differently. The first thing is to realize that grief is very hard and can limit what someone can or wants to do. But, if a family member is not functioning well enough to handle daily routines for an extended period of time, extra support may be needed.”

UnityPoint Hospice offers numerous bereavement services, both in-person and online. Learn more about understanding feelings of grief, as well as online bereavement resources.