Submitted by HOPE for Bereaved

There is no perfect time for grieving the death of a loved one, but when you put COVID-19 and the holiday season together it becomes even harder. The reality of social distancing may lead to extended grieving and even isolation. The bereaved wonder to themselves, “How will I survive this holiday season?”

There is no wrong or right way to handle the holidays. HOPE For Bereaved wants to help and is hosting a special “Virtual Coping with the Holidays” workshop on Thursday, December 3, at 6:30 p.m. Please call HOPE at 315-475-HOPE (4673) for details. The workshop includes speakers sharing their personal stories of how they handled that first holiday without their loved one, a question-and-answer session, along with a special memorial candle lighting ceremony.

For those unable to take part in the virtual workshop HOPE For Bereaved would like to offer you these suggestions for coping with the holidays:

PLAN AHEAD: Talk with your loved ones about what each wants to do. Let relatives and friends know your decisions.

SHOPPING: Shop by catalog, phone or internet. Give gift certificates or donate to a worthy cause in memory of your loved one.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF: Be careful of “shoulds.” Try to put balance in your life; get adequate rest, eat well, exercise, take a walk, pray, and relax. Be careful of alcohol or prescription drugs. Alcohol is a depressant and drugs often mask the pain.

HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES: Consider buying baked goods or doing without; use fewer decorations or ask family to help, send fewer cards or none at all.

HOLIDAY DINNER: Consider serving buffet style, eating at a different time or in a different room.

RELIGIOUS SERVICES: Consider viewing on TV. Turn to your faith — try to concentrate on the meaning of the season.

INVITATIONS: It is best to abide by health department guidelines for your area. Reach out by Zoom, phone and other social media.

EXPRESS FEELINGS: Don’t push down tears. Build in time to cry.

ASK FOR AND ACCEPT HELP: Share your concerns and feelings with an understanding friend. Plan special times to talk by phone or other social media with people with whom you are comfortable.

HELP OTHERS: Reach out to the lonely and shut-ins. Provide food gifts and donations for those in need.

EXPECTATIONS: Keep expectations of yourself and the holidays realistic. Usually the anticipation of the holiday is worse than the day itself.

CALL HOPE 315-475-HOPE (4673) for a good listener, support group information or counseling appointment. Help is only a phone call away.

DETERMINATION: Take one hour or 15 minutes at a time. It won’t be easy but it is doable. When possible, have fun. It is good to laugh.

HOLD ON TO HOPE: In time, your grief will soften. Your loved one will always be a special part of your life and your holidays, and wants you to be happy.

SUGGESTIONS FOR HELPING THE BEREAVED: Your help and understanding can make a significant difference for someone who is grieving, especially during the holidays and pandemic.

LISTEN: The bereaved need someone with whom they can talk. They don’t expect answers, just a good listener.

VALIDATE FEELINGS: Allow and encourage the bereaved to express their emotions and be supportive.

MAKE YOUR OFFER OF HELP SPECIFIC: Don’t say “Call me anytime.” Instead, be specific. “Let me shop for you on Thursday afternoon.”

GIVE PRACTICAL HELP: Look for a need and fill it; such as running errands, fixing meals, picking up groceries, shoveling snow.

SHOW THAT YOU CARE: Send a special card or call on the phone. Stay in their life via social media.

GIVE A THOUGHTFUL GIFT: A small gift such as a plate of cookies, an ornament, a book for journaling, HOPE’s book Understanding, Coping and Growing Through Grief.

LISTEN – LISTEN – LISTEN: This is listed again because it is so important. Offer to spend time, weekly or whenever needed, listening to them.

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