The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Holiday in time of grief

New York, Dec. 13 (Reuters): The holidays, which are traditionally a joyous time of year, can be a very bittersweet time for people who have lost a loved one, no matter how long ago the loss was, and those difficult feelings are likely to surface at some point in time over the holidays.

How does one cope with sadness and painful memories during this time of year'

Although every person’s grief is individual and personal, there are several things a grieving person can do to get through the holiday season, according to Cynthia Bozich-Keith, who counsels people on grief and loss.

A clinical assistant professor in Purdue University’s School of Nursing, she offered the following suggestions:

Share your thoughts and feelings: “I encourage people to talk to their families and close friends about their feelings ' don’t hold things inside. I encourage them to surround themselves with people who they love and who love them and who are accepting,” she said.

Remember the departed: “It’s important to talk about the lost loved one; sharing memories may help with the healing process,” Cynthia said.

Celebrate life: Attend religious services, if faith is part of your life. Make a donation in memory of the departed.

Set limits: “If you don’t feel like going to that Christmas party ' don’t ' but try to be open and pick and choose; again, go with people you love and who love you.”

Be realistic: “Know the difference between what you can do versus what you should do. The ‘shoulds’ will get you every time,” Cynthia said. “It’s important to let go of the need to be perfect or doing it all. If you’re accustomed to doing all of the shopping, cooking, and decorating, maybe this is the year to share those things with others.”

It is also important to be kind to yourself, to pamper yourself a little, to slow down the hectic holiday pace and to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep and avoid alcohol, which may intensify sad feelings.

Cynthia also tells the people she counsels “it’s okay to cry because tears are really healing, so be honest with yourself and others and let yourself be human; loss and grief are a normal part of life”.

On the other hand, don’t feel guilty if you find yourself enjoying the holidays, she said. “It is not disrespectful to the memory of your loved one... your loved one would be happy to know you are enjoying yourself.”

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