Grief Filled Holiday

Joy Filled Holidays…not always.  It probably comes as no surprise to health care providers that several studies show people have a greater chance of dying on Christmas, the day after Christmas or New Year’s Day than any other single day of the year.

 As reported by Jen Christianson of CNN, this is true for people who die of natural causes, which account for 93% of all deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  Researchers say this is also true for people who die of the five most common diseases: circulatory problems, respiratory diseases, endocrine/nutritional/metabolic problems, digestive diseases and cancer.

There is a natural grieving process following the death of a loved one. When a loved one dies on a near a holiday the sense of loss extends beyond normal grieving. Holidays, as well as birthdays, anniversaries and other special days, can be extra stressful.  What was once a special day with family traditions and warm memories, is now complicated by the reminder each year of the loved one who is no longer present for the celebration.

As health care providers and caregivers, we can help grieving families by encouraging them to do the following: *Be gentle with themselves and do only what feels right. *Understand that it is okay to change tradition or let go of old ones. *Add new traditions and think of new ways to bring their loved one into the holiday in special way.

The following suggestions have been found useful in coping with holiday times when one is also experiencing bereavement:

1.  Keep a Low Profile

Remember your sadness takes energy on its own and you’re “at risk” for staying healthy yourself.  Fatigue and loneliness may be increased by shopping at peak times, attending lots of gatherings and otherwise attempting to “be merry.”  This year, spending a quiet evening at home listening to music or writing in a journal, which may be a more nurturing use of your time.  Be good to yourself.

2.  Acknowledge Your Loss

Attempting to bypass feelings requires enormous energy and it is not a good way to heal grief.  If this is the first holiday you have spent since the loss, it may be especially important to talk with others and be honest about how you are feeling.  Don’t be afraid of tears shed amongst family or friends. To acknowledge what is in the heart can provides relief and a sense of closeness.

3.  Listen to Your Inner Voice

Your instincts may tell you that today would be a good day to have a friend over for coffee, or that you should skip the big New Year’s bash.  Pay attention to this inner voice- it’s one of the best friends you have!  Intuition may lead us to the perfect person or activity for this moment and can spare us those which are unsatisfying.  This is a time to respond to your own needs, not to other’s expectations of you.

4.  Make It Okay to Be Alone

While isolating yourself from others is not recommended, there are many times when solitude can be vital and deeply satisfying.  Try to explore being alone and find out what is most compelling to do during your alone time.

If you have experienced a loss we are here to help during the holidays. Schedule a complimentary consultation with Treasure Valley Hospice by clicking here.  

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