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Grieving Through the Holidays

griecing-through-the -holidaysThe holidays can be a challenging time for many of us, but it is even tougher for people grieving or mourning the loss of a loved one.

“At JFK’s Haven Hospice, we encourage our families to remember that there is no right or wrong way to get through the holidays, just a way that feels right for you,” explains Jennifer Gozlan, LSCW, Bereavement Services at Haven Hospice.  “Many of our families will remember the deceased by creating a table centerpiece in their honor. The beauty of this is that it recognizes the longing that the relatives share for someone who will always be an important part of the family. It avoids the ‘elephant in the living room’ phenomena where everyone feels something, but no one says it for fear of making the others sad.”

The truth is as grievers, we are comforted by hearing the name of our loved one. It is important that he or she is recognized, remembered and acknowledged. For families with young children, we encourage that they participate in the creating of the centerpiece, so that a fisherman might be remembered by a fishing pole, coming out through the stems of the centerpiece, whereas a gardener is remembered by her favorite flowers.

It is important to achieve balance between time with others and time by yourself. Visiting the cemetery and buying a grave blanket are traditions that comfort many and provide the peace of solitude. While distraction is helpful for some, it must be balanced with things that soothe you in more personal ways. JFK support group members are encouraged to include some daily reading from Martha Hickman’s Healing After Loss. Participants provide positive feedback about how this simple ritual allows them to acknowledge their connection to their loved one.

It is natural to rework grief at the holiday time. It is a reminder that things are different, but it is also an opportunity to celebrate their life, and think about what traditions they would want us to carry on.

Be gentle with yourself, indulge in the memories and connect to the feelings of gratitude for what you had. Avoid negative coping strategies like excessive drinking or imposing unrealistic expectations. You will see that grief changes with time. The feeling of grief may hit you when you least expect it, but in time you may welcome its presence in your life, as it permits you to feel the closeness that was once so dear to you. Whatever your holiday, preserve those traditions that honor your loved one, even if on a smaller scale during the first year of loss. Your loved one wants you to care for you.

Haven Hospice Support Groups

Haven Hospice offers support groups and programs that assist patients and their families with the effects of life-threatening illness and loss. No fees are charged for participation.

Bereavement support is available for adults and children. These programs offer emotional support as well as a space to share feelings or simply listen to others’ stories. Our professional staff guides loved ones through the process of grieving and helps them gain coping skills that will enable them to move forward with their lives.