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It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but when you’re surrounded by cheerful music and festive celebrations it seems mean-spirited to admit to stress or feelings of sadness. And yet the very reasons why the holidays are so magical—the traditions, the time spent with loved ones—can also make this season so difficult if you’re grieving or if your loved one is in the final stages of an illness.
Holidays are rife with memories and rituals, and once-joyful occasions can trigger profound sorrow and reminders of your loved one’s absence. “The first Christmas after my husband died was horrible,” says Nancy Berman. “I couldn’t understand why people were happy when my loss was so profound and so fresh. But what surprised me was that the second year was even worse! I was in such a daze the first year, and friends and family surrounded my kids and me that first Christmas. The second year was much less blurry emotionally, and much more difficult for my kids and me. We switched things up a little—we did some of the traditional things, but we also started some new traditions.”
If you're facing a loss, here are some ideas to incorporate:
Holidays often serve to emphasize the loss of your loved one, and if your loved one is in the final stages of an illness over the holidays this can be magnified. “My dad died on New Year’s Eve,” remembers Linda Kelley. “He had cancer, and we knew the end was near, but he and my mom tried to make everything as normal as possible. I remember we spent our Christmas vacation planning his funeral! This was 35 years ago, and it’s still hard to go out and see everyone throwing confetti and blowing noisemakers and wishing each other, ‘Happy New Year!’ I usually avoid big parties, but over the years I’ve learned that it’s less painful in the long run to honor my dad’s memory by lifting a glass to him, rather than letting the holiday dredge up my grief.”
When you’re facing an imminent loss:
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