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Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Ramadan, and New Year’s can be very difficult holidays to navigate after the passing of a loved one. Often, the anticipation is worse than the actual event, but both can be exhausting and drain us of our energies. The first year can be the worse, or it may not. However long it has been, we know that grief doesn’t have a shelf life, so for any individual, the first and all that follow may be easier or harder. This is an excellent time for preparation to meet an opportunity. Be prepared and be exceptionally kind toward yourself.

Before I continue, note that “anticipatory grief” should be considered. When a loved one is in the process of transitioning from here or they are experiencing a terminal illness, the grief process is often ignored or not recognized. It shouldn’t be. It takes its toll and should be handled with much love.

The options for coping that I offer here can be applied to adults as well as children. Children handle grief differently. As a little girl, I remember getting Christmas decorations down from the attic the year my father passed. My mother was surprised, yet I remember thinking that Christmas existed even if my father did not. That perspective did not stop me from curling up on my mother’s lap every opportunity I got from Thanksgiving through New Year’s while tears ran down our cheeks.

Be realistic. Decide for yourself what you want or choose not to do anything. Or change your mind midstream. Recognize that if children are involved, the same approach applies to them. Accept offers of help. Buddy up with a friend to write cards, cook, socialize, or decorate.

Be clear about needing support or wanting to be alone. Maybe you’ll want to share memories and traditions. You may want to put up a tree but not decorate it. Maybe you’ll want to start a new tradition. If you don’t want to socialize, remember “no” is a complete sentence. If you get to an event and want to go back home, be honest and do just that. You don’t owe anyone an explanation except maybe reassurance that you’ll touch base later. Our loved ones worry about our well-being during these times.

Allow feelings to flow through you. This means that if you feel joyful, angry, sad, confused, or uncertain —allow those feelings to be explored and expressed appropriately.


Do for other people. The year my father passed, we invited other people who were alone to come to have Thanksgiving dinner with us. Donate in your loved one’s memory. Create a memory box. Decorate something they owned, like a cane, and display it.

Do what feels right. Follow your heart. Grieving is hard work. Allow time for rest, visiting, playing, or whatever feels natural. This is no time for heroism. Your heart hurts. Disruption of everything you thought would now exist. The best you can do is what is easiest for you with the support you need and planning ahead.



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