The joys of the holidays can be painful for those grieving

By Jill Roeman, Sanford Luverne Hospice social worker

When people experience the loss of a loved one, holidays and other special days can be difficult and painful.

They see and hear others making plans to gather with their intact family as they normally do.

For many people dealing with loss, ­ whether it be the first holiday or longer, ­ holidays evoke memories and are a reminder that their loved one is no longer with them.

Helpful ways to help during this time are.

•Talk about your loved one. It’s like the elephant in the room and no one is talking about him or her. Tell your family and friends that it is okay to mention your loved one’s name. In fact, for some people it is comforting knowing others are thinking of them, that he/she has not been forgotten.

•Celebrate life. The wonderful life that was lost in your family can still be honored in many ways.  Light a candle at your holiday dinner or share a memory or stories at your family gathering. Give a memorial to a charity or your loved one’s favorite organization. Some decorate a special tree with special ornaments that signify your loved one’s life.

•Encourage and include children in talking about their feelings. Children, like most of us, need to feel safe, emotionally and physically, before they will share difficult feelings. Find a trusted adult to listen to them, who respects their feelings, and honestly answer questions and help guide them.

•Ways to care for yourself include ­think about what you “want” to do, rather than what you “should” do; limit your commitments and “play it by ear” as your moods and energy may change from day to day. Accept offers from others to do things with a few special people and help with decorating, cleaning, cooking. Don’t be embarrassed to politely let others know what you need or want. Unknown expectations often go unfulfilled and lead to disappointments and hurt feelings.

Grieving is nature’s way of healing the heart and mind from painful loss.

For more information on grief resources, contact Sanford Luverne Hospice, 507-283-1805.

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