QUESTION: How do I deal with loss and grief during the holidays?

While many people look forward to yearly holiday traditions, gatherings with family and friends and the general good feelings associated with the season, some people dread the holidays. For those who have lost a loved one, the holidays may emphasize their grief.

The holidays, especially the first one after losing a loved one, are especially difficult for people who are grieving. We want to share some things that might help during this difficult time. Grief can be a learning process so here are some things that might help:

  • You will feel like the world has ended. It hasn’t, life will go on, slowly. A new normal will come, slowly.
  • No matter how bad a day feels, it is only a day. Each day, you will wake up to a new day, no matter how many tears you shed the day before.
  • Grief comes in waves. You might be okay one hour, not okay the next. Learn to go with the flow of what your heart and mind are feeling.
  • It’s OK to cry. Do it often. But it’s okay to laugh too. Don’t feel guilty for feeling positive emotions even when dealing with loss.
  • Take care of yourself, even if you don’t feel like it. Eat healthily. Work out. Do the things you love. Remember that you are still living.
  • Don’t shut people out. Don’t cut yourself off from relationships. You will hurt yourself and others.
  • No one will respond perfectly to your grief. Be prepared to give other grace.
  • God will be there for you perfectly. He will never let you down. He will let you scream, cry, and question. He is near to the brokenhearted.
  • Take time to truly remember the person you lost. Write about him or her, go back to all your memories with them. It will help.
  • Facing the grief is better than running. Don’t hide from the pain. If you do, it will fester and grow and consume you.
  • You will ask “Why?” more times that you thought possible, but you may not get an answer. What helps is asking, “How can I live life more fully to honor my loved on? How can I change and grow because of this?”
  • Take time to process, feel and heal.
  • Liquor, sex, drugs, hobbies, work relationships will not take the pain away. Seek help if you are dealing with the sorrow in unhealthy ways.
  • It’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to need people.
  • Grief can be beautiful, deep and profound. Don’t be afraid of it. Walk alongside it. You may be surprised at what grief can teach you.

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We can help you take the journey of healing one step at a time. Join us for an informal discussion and time of sharing that will focus on practical ways to minimize negative feelings and feature helpful strategies to cope with grief and loss during the holidays.

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Max Boveri, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I will guide you through this process Nov. 15 at Arroyo Grande Community Hospital Annex, 345 S. Halcyon Road in Arroyo Grande from noon to 1:30 p.m. and at the Mission Hope Cancer Center Conference Room, 1325 E. Church St. in Santa Maria from 3 to 4:30 p.m. To attend either session, call 219-4673.

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Have a question for Your Cancer Answers, a weekly column produced by Marian Regional Medical Center, Cancer Program? Email it to

Jenni Davis is an oncology counselor and patient advocate at Mission Hope Cancer Center.