Editorial: Dealing with Grief During the Holiday Season

It’s week 16 of the fall semester, and Youngstown State University is at its busiest. Deadlines are approaching, finals are looming and sickness is in the air. The only solace YSU students and faculty have is the holiday season, or more importantly, holiday break.

Thanksgiving break served as a weekend of catching up, or relaxing, and the Christmas hiatus will mark the end of the current semester. While many look forward to time spent with family and friends, some are mourning the loss of loved ones who will be missing from this year’s festivities.

A list provided by the VITAS Healthcare website offers the following advice:

Set realistic expectations for yourself. Remind yourself that this year is different and decide if you can still handle the responsibilities you’ve had in the past.

Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Share your plans with family and friends and let them know of any intended changes in holiday routine … Share your memories with others by telling stories and looking at photo albums.

Try to avoid “canceling” the holiday despite the temptation. It is OK to avoid some circumstances that you don’t feel ready to handle, but don’t isolate yourself.

Allow yourself to grieve. It is important to recognize that every family member has his/her own unique grief experience and may have different needs related to celebrating the holidays. No one way is right or wrong.

Draw comfort from doing for others. Consider giving a donation or gift in memory of your loved one. Invite a guest who might otherwise be alone for the holidays.

Take care of yourself. Avoid using alcohol to self-medicate your mood and try to avoid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Create a new tradition. Some people find comfort in the old traditions. Others find them unbearably painful. Discuss with your family the activities you want to include or exclude this year.

Other resources include professional counseling, grief hotlines, support groups and blogs.

Experiencing grief during the holidays can be very painful, as the holidays are a time where traditions are carried out and the feeling of togetherness is especially cherished. Whether it’s the passing of a family member, friend or furry companion, it is important to not only get by day to day, but also cope in a healthy manner to try to heal.

In the end, it is important to remember that life will ultimately go on and that grief is an important emotion to feel. As said by psychiatrist Colin Murray Parkes, “Grief is the price we pay for love.”

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