Coping During Special Days and the Holidays

At Alberni Valley Hospice we know that grieving the loss of a loved one is difficult. Holidays and special occasions can magnify your sense of loss and mourning, making these times especially challenging.

Here are some tips that may help to make this a little easier:

Acknowledge Your Thoughts & Feelings

  • Take some time to connect with your thoughts and feelings. This will help you to identify what you need. 
  • Some of the feelings that may intensify on special days are; sadness, longing, frustration, worry, irritability. 
  • You may have trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, repeating thoughts or memories, disinterest in usual activities.
  • Remember, there is no right or wrong way to feel when it comes to mourning.
  • Acknowledge your loss and what is difficult about it for you
  • Talking about it may permit others to express themselves as well.

Plan Ahead

  • Consider communicating with trusted family and friends before special days and holidays so that you can plan together.  Make room for differences.
  • Don’t feel obligated to participate in anything that doesn’t feel manageable to you. 
  • Allow yourself to remain flexible in your plans and to opt-out at any time. Plan for how you will exit early if you need to.    You may need to accept or decline invitations on a “last-minute” basis.
  • Consider how you might like to spend the day? Are there people you would like to ask to spend time with you? Is there a place you’d like to be or avoid being?   
  • Include plans for comforting activities in the weeks approaching so that you have something to look forward to. 


Involve the Children

  • Include children in the plans, invite their input and ideas. 
  • Some questions you may want to ask the children/youth are:
    • What part of this day is most important to you?      
    • What about this day do you think might be hard for you?
    • Is there is a special way they may want to remember their loved one?  
  • Take this time to talk about the person who has died. Share your memories. Don’t be afraid to cry or have a laugh while doing so.  You are letting the children know it’s ok for them to do so also.

Embracing Memories & Creating New Ways of Remembering

  • Recall the things your loved one enjoyed about the holidays; their favorite, foods, songs, gifts, games, etc.
  • Make a dish, sing a song, or play a game in their memory.  
  • Develop some new traditions in honor of your loved one, incorporate them into your old traditions if you like
  • Light a candle, make a special decoration or collage of pictures; put it in a place of honor.
  • Remember the pain of loss and the joy in remembering can co-exist.  One does not erase the other.  

Eliminate Unnecessary Stress

  • Allow yourself not to be your “usual self”, to do things differently or not at all.
  • Cut back on or opt-out of activities such as decorating, baking, cooking, hosting, staff parties.   If you find shopping stressful consider online shopping or gift cards. 
  • Make a charitable donation in your loved one’s name instead.  Reaching out to others in need can help to give you a sense of some satisfaction and purpose.

Do Something Different

  • Incorporating some new activities might make it easier. 
  • Change the menu.
  • Go to a new location, eat out, order in, go to a show, travel (when it's safe to do so).
  • Alter your usual greetings.  Think about how you will respond to others when they offer wishes for special days.  You may want to simply say “Thank You” or “And to you as well”.

Nurture Yourself

  • Grieving takes energy and can leave you feeling fatigued. Take time to nurture yourself. 
  • Eat well
  • Keep healthy snacks around as your regular appetite may be affected.
  • Make time for regular fresh air and some exercise.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol.  Stay hydrated - water is best.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation.
  • Nap if/when you can, as your regular sleep schedule will be disrupted.
  • Embrace your spirituality.
  • Reach out to those you trust. Seek professional help if need be.
  • Remind yourself an upsurge in grief is normal during the holidays and on special occasions. 
  • Understand this may be a time of heightened emotions and low energy for you and your family. Aim to be kind and patient with yourself and each other.

I would like to take this time to wish you strength, support, and comfort as you continue your healing journey throughout the holidays, on special days, and into the new year.   

Please do not hesitate to call if you would like more information or to access any of our services. You can reach out to us by phone, email, or on our website.

Best wishes to you and yours from all of us throughout this holiday season and 2021.

Marianne, Bereavement Counsellor
Alberni Valley Hospice Society

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