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Your Cancer Answers -- Jennifer Davis

Jennifer Davis

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

For most, the holiday season is the best time of the year. Unfortunately, for the bereaved, holidays and special occasions can be the worst of times, casting a harsh spotlight on pain and loss. There is an inherent struggle to balance personal grief and loneliness with the anticipated pressures of social obligation. Despite the stress and distress of bereavement, the bereaved often have unrealistic expectations placed on them. They may be expected to give the appearance of sharing the merriment of gatherings with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. In an attempt to normalize, this expectation can also come from within. The degree of an individual’s pain is likely in sharp contrast to the high spirits of those around you. All the emphasis on joy, warmth, and glad tidings may serve only to intensify the pain of your longing for absent loved ones.

The holidays, especially the first one after losing a loved one, can be especially difficult for people that are grieving. The need for support may be the greatest during the holidays. Rather than avoiding the feelings of grief, lean into them. You can and will get through the holidays. It is not the grief you want to avoid, it is the pain. Grief is actually the way out of the pain. Grief is our internal feelings and the mourning is our external expression. There are ways to cope. Here are some things that might help:

• Life will go on. A new normal will come, slowly.

• No matter how bad a day feels, it is only a day.

• Grief comes in waves. Learn how to go with the flow of what your heart and mind are feeling.

• It’s okay to cry. Do it often. It’s ok 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 healthy. Work out. Do the things you love. Remember, you are still living.

• Don’t shut people out or cut yourself out of relationships. You will hurt yourself and others.

• No one will respond perfectly to your grief. Be prepared to give others grace.

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• Rely on your faith. God is near to the brokenhearted. He will never let you down.

• Take time to truly remember the person you lost. Journal about him or her and take the time to write about all the good memories.

• Ask yourself “How can I live life more fully to honor my loved one?” “How can I change and grow?”

• Take time to process, feel and grow.

• 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 okay to ask for help. It’s ok to need people. It’s really ok.

• Grief can be beautiful, deep and profound. Don’t be afraid of it. Walk alongside it.

Please join us for an informal discussion and time of sharing which will focus on practical ways to minimize negative feelings and feature helpful strategies to cope with grief and loss during the holidays. Max Boveri, LMFT and Jenni Davis, Mission Hope Patient Advocate, will help you take the journey one step at a time.

Tuesday, Nov. 19, 5-7 p.m. at Mission Hope Cancer Center, 1325 E. Church St., Santa Maria 805-219-HOPE (4673) and Thursday, Nov. 21, 5-7 p.m. at Mission Hope Cancer Center, 850 Fair Oaks Ave., 3rd Floor, Arroyo Grande 805-474-5300. Please call to make a reservation. A light dinner will be served.

HAVE A QUESTION? This weekly column produced by Marian Cancer Care invites you to submit your questions to “Your Cancer Answers” at the following email address: mariancancercare@dignityhealth.org

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