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Managing Grief During the Holidays

Managing Grief During the Holidays is a conversation deserving attention.

For many, Thanksgiving and Christmas are happy times but difficult for those who grieving a loss. Loss has many forms; the death of a loved one, the dissolved dream, empty arms, or an unexpected diagnosis. Our lives fall apart in different ways.

Acknowledge holidays will be different.

“One of the most important things to do when you are navigating a loss–and there are several kinds of losses, it’s not just the death of a loved one–is to acknowledge that these holidays will be different,” says teacher, widow, and author Marilyn Nutter. For example, if there is a job loss, finances will be affected. An empty chair will emphasize the loss of a loved one.

Adjust and Express Your Expectations

People will try to make things the same as before, but it’s different. Circumstances and people are now different and so will be this holiday. Know it’s going to be different and adjust your expectations. Ask yourself, what do I think the holidays will be like this year? How do I want to celebrate the holiday in the most loving way to myself and to God?

Marilyn is a facilitator at Grief support. As the holidays approach, she encourages grievers to voice their expectations to friends and family. Sometimes, people want to carry on the tradition exactly as before. However, if the tradition includes travel, they may not want to. The idea of packing and traveling might be too overwhelming during this season. Friends and family are not mind readers, so it is important to express this reality that this holiday will be different and share your thoughts and expectations with others.

Recognize the Range of Emotions

Each person is different and will handle loss differently. Emotions, such as anger and disappointment, will change throughout the day and the season. The key to navigating loss this Thanksgiving and Christmas is to recognize emotions will vary throughout the season and throughout each day.

I remember the first year of my illness, telling my eleven-year-old daughter I didn’t feel like celebrating. With a deep sigh, I said, “I cannot do this. I want to skip Thanksgiving and Christmas and go straight to January.” My daughter put on her eleven-year-old sassy pants and, with hands-on-hips, she demanded, “No mom! In this house, we celebrate Jesus! We are going to celebrate the birth of Christ and we are going to be thankful!”

My daughter was right. We didn’t put up all the decorations as in years before. But I managed to set out some pumpkins and mums for Thanksgiving and we decorated the Christmas tree. It wasn’t the same as in previous years and neither was I. Anger, disappointment, and uncertainty loomed at every corner.

Remember Others Grieve Differently

Chances are during the holiday season; you will encounter someone whose grief looks different from your own. Grief is as unique as our fingerprints, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. This includes our children. Keep in mind others are grieving the loss of that person too, and they may grieve differently than you. In our interview with Family Life Radio, Martha accurately describes it as a “constellation of reactions.”

Offer Practical Help

If someone we love is grieving this Thanksgiving and Christmas, the best way to know how to help is to ask. Start by telling your loved one…

“I recognize this is going to be a hard season for you, but I want to know what can I do? What’s going to be the most beneficial to you?”

Allow that person to answer for themselves. If they don’t answer, it’s possible they are dealing with so many decisions they have “decision paralysis.” Basic decisions are too much because the grieving loved one is so overwhelmed.

In this case, I recommend you make these suggestions. “I would like to help you by…

  1. Wrapping or mailing packages

  2. Grocery shopping for you

  3. Baking

  4. Addressing your Christmas cards

  5. Bringing down your Christmas decorations down from the attic”

This topic is close to my heart. In the second half of this year, I’ve attended six funerals (three of which we family members). I know I am not alone in my grief. I know what it is like to not have the strength or capacity for phony people, forced smiles, and hoopla. Sound familiar?

Earlier this month we had the opportunity to talk with Martha Manikas-Foster at @familylifenypa radio.🎧(Listen to the podcast here) We discussed the topic of managing grief during the holidays which is also discussed in our new book, Destination Hope a Travel Companion When Life Falls Apart.

Hope is the key focus of our book and the encouragement we want to share. When loss threatens to topple our world, God remains constant.

Hugs & Hope,

April Dawn White

💌 If the message comforts you today, would you please share this Hope with others.

Images courtesy of Canva and  Erica Marsland Huynh Unsplash

© 2021 April Dawn White

Destination Hope a Travel Companion When Life Falls Apart is available online at Amazon, Books a Million, Barnes & Noble, and

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