Coping with the Holidays When Grief Is New

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It’s hard to believe that the holidays are upon us – again. The stores are overflowing with holiday goods as families gear up for their celebrations.

However, if someone you love has recently died, thinking about the holidays may bring you anguish. What were once happy times might now fill you with tremendous sadness and heartache. You may even wish that this year, you could skip the holidays all together.

Sue Morris provides bereavement support to the loved ones of Dana-Farber patients.

If these holidays will be your first without your loved one, it is important to do something to acknowledge this time of year. This may mean doing the same thing you’ve always done, or trying a new activity. The key is doing something even if you don’t feel like it. Doing nothing won’t take away your pain, and in fact, can make things harder.

You might find it helpful to talk with family and friends ahead of time about your plans. Would you like to do something different this year? Are there rituals you’d like to keep the same? Lower your expectations about what is possible, and be patient with yourself.

Grief follows a wave-like pattern, and often people feel as though their grief is intensifying around the holidays. It is normal to feel this, as special dates such as holidays and anniversaries tend to highlight the absence of your loved one, and show how your life has changed.

While it is very important to give yourself permission to cry, it is equally important to give yourself permission to enjoy these occasions.

Sue Morris, M. Psychol. (Clinical) Hons., is director of Bereavement Services at Dana-Farber /Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

4 comments

  1. Judy says:

    This is my first Christmas without my husband of 43 years. It has only been 10 weeks since he passed away from a brain tumor that was only diagnosed last March. I feel as tho I grieved during that time, because it felt as if I lost a little of him everyday. I miss him dearly, but I do not feel the pain that people talk about. I feel regret that the week he retired to enjoy life, was the week he found out. I feel the loss and I feel alone, but I know he wants me to be strong for the rest of the family. I don’t know if it will hit after the holidays when I am not as busy. I do feel the need to be involved in a support group of some kind if only for the company and someone to talk to.

    • Sue Morris says:

      Judy – I think your story highlights how unique grief is in that no two people will grieve in the same way. In my experience, many people find support groups helpful because they can provide a safe place to share stories and experiences while at the same time offering some strategies for dealing with grief when it is new. To find a group you could contact the hospital where your husband received his care or a local hospice in your area as hospice bereavement services are available to the wider community.

  2. marie says:

    This is my second Christmas without my spouse. I still can’t listen to carols without tearing. I did allow house to be decorated but it males me sad to look at lights. January can’t come fast enough for me.

  3. Sue Morris says:

    Marie,
    I hope in time you will be able to enjoy your lights again – but I am glad you were able to decorate your house this year.

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