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Seven steps to ease holiday grief

Health and Wellness

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or so the holiday music on the radio says. When you’ve lost a loved one, the holidays may instead feel like the very worst time of all. While the whole world seems to be full of joy and singing, your world may feel sad and joyless.

No matter how recently or long ago we’ve lost a loved one, the hole they leave behind is often never more obvious than during the holidays. “The holidays remind us of lost relationships,” says Pam Strachan, Adventist Health Portland chaplain and grief specialist. “The pain of grief is often intensified around this time of year.”

Despite grief being a universal experience, many of us feel alone as we face once-special times without our loved one. This is why Strachan puts a special emphasis on helping people through this difficult time. “Grief is my passion, and I love the camaraderie of partnering with those who are stuck,” she shares.

Through her experience running grief support groups and her doctoral studies in complicated grief and resilience, Strachan has seen how the holidays can increase grief. “The stress of the holiday season, missing the person, the loss of the relationship and all the memories that accompany that loss make the holiday extremely difficult,” she explains.

She offers seven tips to help ease the holiday pain during seasons of grief:

  • Plan how to get through this holiday season ahead of time
  • Change traditions
  • Find a creative outlet
  • Light a candle in honor of your loved one
  • Talk about the person who has died
  • Don’t forget the rest of your family and loved ones
  • Do something nice for yourself

“Grief is very stressful, and the holiday season can irritate an already painful experience,” Strachan says. “But there is a way forward with support and good self-care.”

Part of that good self-care can include support from others who know firsthand how grief is experienced uniquely during the holidays and throughout the year. Adventist Health Portland offers an ongoing grief support group that meets the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month. For more information about this free group, call (503) 251-6105.