The empty chair at the Thanksgiving table. Unopened gifts on Christmas or Chanukah. These are a few of the more poignant reminders that someone is missing from the celebration. The holiday season tends to magnify feelings---good and bad. If you have lost someone recently or plan to spend time with someone who has, take a few minutes to consider the emotions you or they may face.
If You Are Grieving a Loss, Have a Plan A and B
Acknowledge that the holidays will be different and they may be tough. With that in mind, think about having alternative plans for the day---Plan A you go to the Thanksgiving, Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner with family and friends. If however, as the day approaches it doesn't feel right, fall back to plan B. Plan B may be watching a movie you and the departed liked or going to a special place you went to together or revisiting a photo album of old memories. Many people find that when they have a Plan B in place, just knowing it is there is enough to get them through the day.
Acknowledge the Loss
Find ways to acknowledge your loss that will also provide a measure of comfort. Examples might include:
• A prayer before the holiday dinner dedicated to your loved one, or a shared story.
• An online tribute for them or a charitable donation in their memory.
• Your loved one's favorite dish at the meal or a new tradition in their honor.
Can I Cancel The Holiday?
Yes, you can cancel the holiday. If you are going through the motions and feeling nothing, cancel them. Take a year off. They will come around again. For others, staying involved with the festivities provides continuity and much-needed routine.
For Family Members and Friends
• Avoid the temptation to say, "things will be fine." Instead, tell him or her that you are sorry such an event has occurred and that you want to assist them if you can.
• Spend time with the traumatized person and listen, carefully. Be sensitive to the person's need, at some point, for privacy.
• Offer your assistance but only if you can be relied upon in the event you are asked for help.
• Don't take expressions of anger or other strong feelings personally. The process of grieving can be complicated and is different for different people.
If you'd like to discuss a concern with a COPE counselor, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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