How to Deal with Holiday Grief

Bereavement counselor Elizabeth Schandelmeier discusses holiday grief at a Mt. Lebanon Public Library presentation.

Holidays are happy days. But, when you’ve lost a loved one, the joy you see in others only seems to amplify your grief.

Experts will tell you there is no hiding from the holidays. They come whether you want them or not. When you’re missing a loved one during holiday gatherings, your grief and loss can be more intense and can come at you  in unexpected ways.

“People may or may not understand what you’re going through.  Anything you are feeling is normal.  There is no time limit on missing someone,” said Elizabeth Schandelmeier, a bereavement counselor for UPMC Family Hospice, who spoke about holiday grief at Mt. Lebanon Public Library.

“Even though we’re all alone in our grief, we’re all together today,” said Laurie Schultz, public services librarian.

The presentation explored ways to understand and cope with the unique challenges a grieving person faces, especially during the winter holidays, as well as ways to support a grieving person.

As Schandelmeier pointed out, grief is a process, not an event. Each of us works through the process in our own way and on our own timetable. “Don’t deny your grief,” she told the in-person and virtual participants. “If you need to cry, cry. It’s okay to be sad.”

According to Schandelmeier, there are no “shoulds” when it comes to grieving. There is no right or wrong way to spend the holidays.

Although you may not be joyful all the time, you don’t have to be devastated every day.  Realize your need for a little happiness. Give yourself permission to enjoy things like birthdays or grandkids. Talking about your loved one and sharing stories or photos of that person can bring warm memories.

Additional Ways to Cope with Grief (provided by Family Hospice):

  • Feel your feelings. Even if you haven’t cried or been angry about the loss in a long time, you may want to now.
  • Help others. Service is one of the best ways to feel better when you are grieving. Donate time or gifts to your loved one’s favorite charity.
  • Be healthy. Eat well, drink plenty of water, and get sleep. Avoid alcohol abuse, overeating and other bad habits.
  • Look for support. Reach out to family, close friends, and your community for support.
  • Honor your needs. As you respect the needs of others, say in touch with your own needs. Some people find they need time to themselves after a loss.  Don’t be afraid to leave a crowd to find a quiet space to cry or reflect. Do something special just for you.

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