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Dealing with Grief during Holidays

December 06, 2010

A question commonly asked by bereaved people at this time of the year is, “How can I get through the holidays?” 

“There is no simple answer,” notes Stasia Wozniak, LSW, clinical social worker at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital who works to help those who may feel alone in their struggles and grief.  “One important guiding principal is: do what is comfortable,” said Wozniak.   

Wozniak who has been facilitating the hospital’s grieving support group inspires strength in those who have suffered a tremendous loss.  “Support groups offer members a sense of togetherness and understanding,” notes Wozniak.  “There is great comfort when members can tell their story and express their feelings, in a safe and caring environment.” 

“If you are already experiencing the great stress of bereavement, the additional strains of the holidays can create unbearable pressure,” said Wozniak.  “Some people find it helpful to be with family and friends, emphasizing the familiar; others may wish to avoid old sights and sounds, perhaps even taking a trip.  Others will seek out new ways to acknowledge the season,” notes Wozniak who offers the following tips on coping with grief during the holidays: 

  • Plan for the approaching holidays, and be aware of what might be difficult for you.  
  • Recognize that holidays won’t be the same.  If you try to keep everything as it was, you might be disappointed.  Starting new traditions can acknowledge the change while preserving the past.   Different menu’s, changing decorations, attending different services, or even celebrating in a different location may provide that slight change that allows you to experience life in a new way. 
  • The holidays will affect the other members of your family as well.  Talk over your plans, respect their choices and compromise if necessary.  Everyone should participate in ways that are comfortable.  It is important that if you decide to make changes be sure not to isolate yourself. 
  • Don't be afraid to express your feelings and allow people to comfort you. 
  • Remember, anticipation of any holiday is so much worse than the actual holiday.
  • Honor your loved one by remembering something that brought them joy, donate your time or get involved in a cause or organization that was important to them. 
  • Try to get enough rest.
  • Consider a support group when you are ready.   Grief can feel very lonely, even when you are surrounded by loved ones.  Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses is comforting and can be part of the normal grieving process.

The Grieving Support Group meets the first Tuesday of every month from 5:30 to 7:00 pm in the Human Resource Conference Room at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital.  For more information contact Stasia Wozniak at 413-967-2225.