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picture of a senior woman coping with loss during the holiday seasonWhen we lose the people in our life that have always been there is a life-altering event. The holidays create even more pain to those who are suffering grief from the death of a loved one.It is a painful reminder of those who are no longer in our lives on a daily basis. What should be a festive and happy time does not feel like it for the grief stricken.

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Any approaching holiday can cause problems many weeks before the actual day. It is painfully obvious the day (especially if it the first holiday since the death) will not be the same this year as it has been in the past. Often recalling how things were the last holiday you were together is constantly on your mind.

Grief causes physical and emotional pain. Baby Boomers have come to expect instant pain relief in this fast paced society. Unfortunately Baby Boomers will be facing this chapter in their lives in a culture that does not give grief the respect or validation it deserves.

Grief is an emotion that our society does not want to discuss. It has become an "off limits" subject in our culture. In a time of celebration people don’t feel as comfortable to express their sadness when the focus of our culture is of celebration. In actuality this does not help those who are emotionally raw.

We have inherited the "stiff upper lip" of our parent’s generation and have also been inundated with expressions such as "get on with life" and "closure" and "getting back to normal" None of these expressions or attitudes helps the grief stricken especially during a holiday season.

There is an enormous amount of pressure to act "normal" during these holiday times. This seems like an insurmountable task at this time. These holidays and special occasions are very emotionally draining for many years after the loss. It is exhausting!!!

Here are some things that can help you get through these difficult situations:

  1. Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you feel. If journaling or using a support group or special person that helps- make sure you take advantage of them during holiday times.
  2. Keep up any traditions that the deceased person started and you can continue- it helps you feel you are honoring the deceased.
  3. Also try to establish new traditions that make you and your family feel good about the holiday or include activities you enjoy.
  4. Talk about your loved one with friends and family and encourage them to share favorite stories with you.
  5. Take care of yourself during this stressful time. Anything that makes you feel better should be done. This could be a long walk, massage, listening to music and getting enough sleep.

Holidays are a difficult time but there are ways to get through them without hiding from the pain. Even though the holiday may not be as celebratory as last year, the day passes and you do survive!!!

© 2009 Jane Galbraith

Jane Galbraith, BScN, R.N., is the author of "Baby Boomers Face Grief – Survival and Recovery." Her work in the community health field included dealing with palliative clients and their bereaved families and has also assisted facilitating grief support groups. She speaks to many organizations including the Bereavement Ontario Network annual meeting and the Canadian Palliative Care and Hospice Conference in the fall of 2007 and conducts workshops.

Her book is available through the author directly at or or More information about the book can be found at or

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