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The holidays aren’t the same in 2020. Grief-support ideas can help

The holiday season is a tough time for people dealing with loss, especially this year. Some are mourning the death of a loved one, while others are struggling with the loss of norms and traditions due to COVID-19.

As the director of clinical outreach for HopeHealth, I’ve seen firsthand how the coronavirus pandemic has caused many of us to experience varied degrees of cumulative grief. In fact, nearly twice as many people are using HopeHealth’s grief support services as compared to last year.

Still, there are ways to cope with holiday grief. They range from traditional grief-support methods to new, creative ideas. Here are some tips:

Want a special way to honor your loved one’s memory? Sign up here for HopeHealth’s Light Up a Life virtual remembrance event on Thursday, December 10, at 6:00 p.m.

Feel connected to others, even when far apart

While COVID-19 restrictions have limited in-person contact, there are other ways to take comfort from family and friends over the holidays.

  • Use video conferencing to get together. Even if you aren’t physically gathered around a table, it is still comforting to hear the calming voice or feel the mindful presence of a loved one.
  • Ask your loved ones to share stories and pictures with you. There are more ways to communicate than ever: by mailed letter, email, phone, video chat, social media or group messaging app. Sharing happy memories can unleash the emotions necessary for healing.
  • Coordinate a date and time to recite a poem, spiritual reading or prayer. This is a special way to honor the loss of a loved one. It is particularly effective during Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and other holiday gatherings.

Create new traditions, memories or rituals

It may seem impossible to try something new while deep in grief, but making the effort can bring healing.

  • Participate in an activity with special meaning. If your loved one enjoyed the outdoors, plant a tree in their memory. Watch his or her favorite movie, or prepare a favorite meal. Retracing familiar steps can be cathartic and help you feel close to someone no longer physically present.
  • Shop online for holiday gifts. If there were ever a year to begin this tradition, 2020 is it. The hustle and bustle of holiday shopping can be overwhelming for people in grief. Instead, hunt online for meaningful gifts to memorialize someone lost or to warm a loved one’s heart.
  • Attend HopeHealth’s Light Up a Life remembrance event on December 10 at 6:00 p.m. This annual tradition will be held virtually this year, so friends and family from afar can participate. Visit HopeHealthCo.org/LightUpaLife for details or call us at (888) 528-9077.

Feel free to say “I need help”

Asking for support is a powerful first step toward navigating the holiday season.

  • Seek assistance from grief-support professionals and volunteers. There are an array of choices, from individual grief counseling to support groups and hotlines. HopeHealth offers free virtual grief support groups and hosted an educational workshop series, Hope for the Holidays, in November. To learn more, visit HopeHealthCo.org/GriefSupport or call us at (888) 528-9077.
  • Seek spiritual support from faith-based organizations. Many congregations are meeting virtually to provide a safe place to practice religious expression and take strength in community.
  • Try something new. Many activities are available online this year, from paint classes and museum tours, to volunteer opportunities and educational courses. Many seniors have learned to navigate the internet and connect with the outside world.

More than ever, we must be patient and flexible with ourselves and each other this holiday season. The pandemic is a time of collective sadness, yet we can open ourselves up to new experiences and find opportunities for healing and unwavering hope.

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