Caregiver Corner: Surviving the Holidays

Tips from Brighton Hospice Chaplain, Carolyn O’Bryan Cochran

Holidays are among the hardest times for those who have experienced the death of a loved one.  Thanksgiving and holiday decorations are out.  Christmas music is playing everywhere you go.  Society is encouraging everyone to join in the holiday spirit and be “of good cheer.”  The sounds, sights and smells of the holidays can trigger memories of our loved one who has died, becoming constant reminders of his or her absence.

Nothing will take away the hurt and pain you may be feeling. We can’t change what has happened.  We can, however, choose how to deal with our grief.  Here are some suggestions to help you survive those first holidays.  I encourage you to be tolerant and compassionate with yourself as you will continue to heal.

  1. Acknowledge and validate your feelings – Grief is normal! Feelings are not good or bad, they just provide us with information.
  2. Remember people grieve differently – Family dynamics change when a loved one dies. There may be differing views on how to act during the holidays – don’t expect everyone to be where you are. Try to communicate honestly and respectfully.
  3. Family Gatherings – These can be reminders of our love for one another and they can emphasize the absence of the one we love. Plan ahead but leave room to change if you feel it is appropriate. Talk to other family members about how to honor your loved one when together. Ritual can be helpful.
  4. Remember the holidays weren’t always perfect before your loved one’s death.
  5. Spend your energy wisely – It is easy to feel fatigued during the holidays. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. It’s okay to cut out things that stress you.
  6. Practice good self-care – It is important to ground yourself body/mind/spirit during this difficult time. Do things to take care of yourself.
  7. Prepare for after the holiday – Be aware there may be a low time after the hype of the holidays. You may want to plan something to look forward to once they’re over.
  8. Remember: Love does not end with death – Grief is both a necessity and a privilege. It comes as a result of loving and being loved.  Accept yourself as you grieve in your own time.  Love yourself.  Be patient with yourself.  Allow yourself to be surrounded by loving, caring people. Song of Songs tells us that love is stronger than death.  Love always remains.  Remember the gift of that love!


If you have questions about memory care and what we can do to help you and your loved one contact Gianna Homes.