Coping with the Holidays after Loss

The Christmas season is typically a time of joy, family and tradition.

Death often disrupts all these things and grief can be harder in this time. Here are some suggestions to help you cope as you anticipate the upcoming celebrations:

  1. Have Conversations: Realize that this year will be different. Have conversations with family and friends about what this means for you. If necessary, give others permission to talk about your loss.
  2. Traditions: Decide what traditions you want to discontinue or continue and what festivities you want to participate in or not. If it feels right, start a new tradition. If you have children at home and you feel it is appropriate, be honest with them and include them in conversations. If they want to, allow them to help in planning.
  3. Volunteer: Give back to your community by volunteering or participating in donations.
  4. In Memory Of: Finds ways of incorporating the presence of your loved one. For instance, you can give a toast to their memory or display a symbol that represents them, like a candle.
  5. Share Memories: Share stories and memories. It’s ok to laugh, it’s ok to cry. You might experience a range of emotions in this time. It’s normal to feel multiple things at once, some of which may seem to be in opposition.
  6. Identify Your Needs: Identify the people in your life who are helpful and note their gifts. Not everyone is a good listener, and not everyone is good with tasks. Be open about your needs in that moment and how they can help.
  7. Find Support: Consider attending a support group in your area.
  8. Grace: Accept grace from God, others and most importantly, yourself. Grieving is hard. Be patient with yourself.

Ministers – you can also be great resources for those struggling during the Christmas season and throughout the year. Here are some ways you can be supportive:

  1. Acknowledge this is not a joyous season for some.
  2. Consider hosting a healing service or services. Partner with other congregations or agencies if this makes doing so more feasible.
  3. Talk to or send a card to those who are grieving during the holiday season. Don’t be afraid to say their loved one’s name. Remember that your presence and support might be the most important or memorable Gospel message they hear this season.
  4. Get to know what services, groups and providers are available in your area. Funeral homes and healthcare providers are a great place to start. Consider inviting local professionals to speak, lead a class and/or, if applicable, preach.
  5. Recognize your own gifts and the gifts in others. We are not meant to be all things to all people. It takes all of us to be the body of Christ.

Heidi Larson is a bereavement coordinator with UnityPoint Hospice. Larson primarily serves the Greater Des Moines area and routinely connects people to grief support in their own communities. She is available to support people individually or through support groups in the Des Moines area. All of UnityPoint Hospice’s services are free and open to the community, and partner with area congregations to introduce their services, offer education workshops and let people know of resources that can be accessed to support people in their own congregations. For further information please contact Heidi at or 515-557-3204.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s