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How to Best Cope With Grief During the Holidays: Stories About Ways to Celebrate Lost Loved Ones

During the holiday season, most family members have a break from school or the workplace. This provides family and friends with time to celebrate the memory of a cherished loved one. Toasts can be made at the holiday table, stories can be shared and perhaps a place can be set for the missing loved one.

Betty Auchard, of Los Gatos, California shared this family anecdote: “During the first year after my husband Denny died, my children told stories about their dad that applied to that particular holiday. On the 4th of July they still love recalling how he begrudged the cost of every firecracker and sparkler. After each explosion went off he would recite the exact prices by saying, ‘Well, that’s forty-five cents down the drain,’ or ‘There goes another dollar up in smoke.’ It always prompted more memories that made us laugh and a combination of tears and laughter helped us remember his quirky side in a loving way.”

Gifts in Grief During the Holiday Season

Opening up to laughter can be great therapy and young children bring needed lightness and joy to the holiday season, especially following the death of a family member or close friend. With their innocence, children don’t experience the deep feelings of loss that affect adults, so children can provide a great source of pleasure during a difficult time. If a grandchild, niece or nephew happens to bear a resemblance to the loved one, it can be an added blessing.

Grief support groups not only supply a chance to meet with others sharing the same loss, but they can offer tools to help with the healing process. Writing a letter, burning a candle and learning ways to cope are some of the ideas presented.

Joan Lundell, of Capitola, California has led such a group. Lundell, a certified chaplain, lost her husband, age 70, on the day after Christmas. That night, in prayer, she received the mantra, “In my weakness is your strength,” which provided her with an invaluable lesson in coping.

“When the waves of grief would double me over, I would say, or scream my mantra until the wave passed. I would say this sometimes hundreds of times a day and it worked,” Lundell explained.

Another important gift came in the form of a realization – she realized that that she didn’t have to be in control. “That was in the merciful hands of the One who holds me,” she added.

Break With Tradition When Coping with Grief

A grieving person may find peace in starting some new traditions when familiar traditions bring sad memories. Accompanying family or friends who have planned a vacation trip or cruise for the holiday period could be a good idea to consider.

Another way to break tradition involves celebrating a holiday at a different location; this provides an opportunity to create new memories and new traditions.

Make an Altar to Recognize a Loved One During the Holidays

Chelsea George, of Santa Cruz, California, lost her daughter Maya to brain cancer at the age of nine-and-a-half Each year, she makes an altar to Maya on the Day of the Dead.

“This traditional Mexican holiday is a happy occasion because many people believe that the spirits of the loved ones they’ve lost will come and visit on November 1 and 2. I feel like Maya and I communicate every day, but it’s nice to follow tradition,” George explained.

How to Cope if a Loved One Dies During the Holidays

Losing a loved one during the holidays makes the cross all the more difficult to bear, but family support can come very much into play. With the extra time off from work and school, each family member can help take on some aspect of planning the memorial service. One can make arrangements with the funeral parlor or for a church service. Another close friend or family member can make phone calls to notify friends of the death, while another can put together a photo montage and still another can help set up the reception after the church service.

In addition, many church members provide and deliver meals to the home after a death in the family. It’s a service that may be deeply appreciated by a grieving individual or family.

Often, family members are free at this time to spend a few nights with the grieving relative following the death. This can serve as a great source of company and comfort for all concerned. One widow found overwhelming comfort by sleeping on her departed husband’s pillow, on his side of the bed.