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Personal Stories from Our Community: Holiday Grief Advice

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It’s never easy to lose a loved one. But it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Sometimes, all you need is to hear from someone who knows personally how you’re feeling.

With the holiday season in full swing, some of us are feeling less than joyful this year. And that’s because this cheerful time of year can also intensify our feelings of grief. You may long for the traditions you and your loved once shared, or that void they’ve left behind might feel greater than ever.

That’s why we asked you—our Northeast Ohio community—to share how you’ve personally handled holiday grief. Keep reading to discover personal grief stories from our community and readers, and a special note from Jim Busch, our president and owner.

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1. Celebrate Your Lost Loved One

What’s your favorite holiday tradition? Is it the same meal your family prepares every year? Perhaps it’s a Christmas cookie exchange, or hanging ornaments together on the tree. 

Whatever your answer, traditions can feel difficult to carry out when you’re grieving. But sometimes, the best way to heal is by honoring your loved one’s personality and favorite things.

In fact, Jonnie from Cleveland shared this great piece of advice:

Speak their name, fix their favorite dish or set their place at the table. Tell stories about the person.”

2. Respect Your Personal Grief Journey

Grieving is a personal journey. No two people grieve the same. And oftentimes, it might feel easier to avoid your personal journey than to allow yourself to slow down and simply feel.

Especially during the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s important to stay in tune with your personal emotions. Do what is best for you. 

Lorene from North Royalton shared this helpful idea:  

Give yourself permission to do whatever it takes to care of your needs and bring you the most comfort. It might mean carrying on holiday traditions, eliminating them altogether or creating a new tradition. Keep in mind that what you choose one year can be different the following year or in the years to come.”

3. It’s Okay to Want Privacy

The holidays are jam-packed with family events. We go from event to event, hardly giving ourselves any alone time or a moment of solitude.  

Depending on your grief journey, you may want to stay home this year and honor your departed loved one in private. That’s okay. 

Like Leslie from North Olmstead said:

Celebrate them by staying home and have an old-fashioned Christmas."

Mary from Independence shared a similar sentiment:

Do not feel obligated to attend a function that you are not ready for. Grief is personal and exhausting. You will know when you have the energy and desire to participate.”

4. Express Your Feelings

We’re often told that we feel grief in five stages. But grief follows no linear path. Some days we may feel bright and positive, while others we feel anger or depression. 

It’s important to be comfortable expressing your grief—even during a jolly holiday season. If you find comfort in talking with others, do so. Give yourself a break and forgive yourself often. Remember, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and let your emotions flow.  

Jana shared with us: 

Cry when you need to. Keep busy and try to keep your mind occupied.”

5. Slow Down

We can’t attach a timestamp to grief. Whether your loss happened this year or 20 years ago, the holidays can be a painful reminder.  

Don’t rush through these special days. Instead, try taking time to remember your loved one and appreciate the time you spent together.

Like Marilynne from Willowick expressed:  

My 24-year-old son died in July 41 years ago. At that time, I plowed through the holidays hanging his ornaments on the tree with tears, and did the best I could for the sake of the other children and family. It was one day at a time, sometimes five minutes at a time.”

6. Make a Plan for Yourself

Between holding or attending events, cooking special holiday meals, or shopping for loved ones, the holidays are busy. Remember that you don’t have to take it all on at once, but it’s helpful to have a plan. 

If you are ready to share the holidays with your family, then do so. If you prefer to keep to yourself, still try to plan something to look forward to. Maybe it’s hanging your loved one’s favorite ornament, or writing a letter expressing your feelings. 

Tammy from Bay Village shared this important idea about planning:

Be with loved ones or make a plan for yourself of how you will pass the time. You may not feel like being with people or celebrating when your heart is heavy, but being alone, especially at the holidays and through this COVID-19 time, can add to feelings of depression and isolation. If you are not feeling up to festivities or being with people, then make a plan for yourself. Include others by sharing your plan, let them know how you will spend your time and check in with loved ones by phone. Consider how you will spend your day, week, or holiday season and try to be consistent with your plans. Try to add something creative into your day, even if it’s just thinking about something that brings joy.

7. Include Others

The loss of a loved one can affect many different relationships. Whether they were a spouse, a friend, a coworker or neighbor, we all feel their missed presence.

Even when you’re feeling a loss, remember that others are, too. Consider including others in your holiday plans this year to ease the pain and share memories together. Any kind gesture you can offer would be appreciated, but also be accepting if they aren’t ready to let you into their hearts.  

Barbara from Lorain shared this personal idea:  

Include grieving family members and friends to the degree they feel comfortable. Allow and encourage them to talk about their loss, and even encourage them to talk about holiday traditions that they practiced. If possible, help them create new traditions, that may include loving memories of their lost one.”

Get Access to More Grief-Related Resources

Are you grieving the loss of a loved one? For more information on grief, plus healthy tips to help you heal, we encourage you to subscribe to our weekly grief newsletter, A Journey Towards Healing.

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Jim Busch
Jim Busch
Owner and president of our firm. Fourth generation funeral director and certified crematory operator, Jim is guided by his principles in faith, family and friends. He loves to hear feedback from our families. Proudly serving Busch families since 1986.

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