Coping with grief during the holidays

by Chaplain Tom Jones
Executive Director of LIFE Care Services

There is no right or wrong way to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow family traditions, while others may choose to change them all together. Whichever feels natural to you is going to be the right way, but remember to be with family and those that you enjoy.

It is important to incorporate your grief in your holiday celebrations. By that I mean that stress is often caused by the perceived need to put aside our grief, if even briefly, so that we can join in on the “good times.” And that often can leave us feeling as though we have dishonored the one missing. Things are not like they used to be and pretending it is only increases the hurt. I believe that speaking of your loved one and doing some of the following suggested activities will both honor the memory and respect your grief. Once others realize that you are comfortable talking about your loved one, they can relate stories that will add to your pleasant memories.

Suggestions:

  • Hang a stocking with their name.
  • Sing their favorite Christmas song at the family gathering.
  • Donate a gift or money in your loved one’s name.
  • Burn a special candle in their memory.
  • Do something for others by volunteering at the local shelter, in a hospital or nursing home on the holiday, at the local food pantry, in a crisis center or at the air port to pour coffee for stranded travelers.

Don’t be afraid to express your feelings, and just as importantly, you need to allow people to comfort you.They need to feel they are helping in some way. Remember, anticipation of any holiday is so much worse than the actual holiday.

Things that are worrisome signs:

  • Isolation – Don’t close yourself off to the celebrations and people. Laughter and joy is not disrespectful.
  • Reckless behavior – The hurt might seem easier if we mask it with behaviors that involve risk. This does not work!
  • No rest – You need to avoid additional stressors and get plenty of rest. Decide what you really want to do, and what can be avoided. The holidays can be draining, but with the loss of a loved one, much more so.

Opportunities that GRMC offers to cope with grief during the holidays:

  • Grief Support Group (This group meets each month on the 3rd Sunday at 3pm in the Rev. Nell Ferrell Linebarger Chapel)  – This is an open forum for group discussion of our grief experiences. We talk and cry and discover things that work and things that do not.
  • Tree of LIFE: Holiday Tree Ornament – When you make a $10 donation to place an ornament on our beautiful holiday tree, you are making a gift that honors and memorializes your loved one. You also are helping Hospice Services continue to serve those in our community as they struggle through the most difficult times in their lives. Each ornament, displaying your loved ones names, will be placed on the holiday tree located in the Central Lobby of GRMC. Contact the Guadalupe Regional Medical Foundation at 830.401.1367
  • The Teddy Buerger Center (TBC) is the only licensed treatment center in Guadalupe County and offers outpatient chemical dependency and mental health services to children, adolescents, and adults. For more information please call 830.401.1367.