tips from a uvm end of life doulas to cope with grief at the holidays

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How to Cope with the Loss of a Loved One During the Holidays

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By Angela Shook

The holiday season, often associated with joy, celebration, and togetherness, can feel incredibly daunting for those of us experiencing grief over the loss of a loved one. As an End-of-Life Doula and a proud graduate of the University of Vermont’s End-of-Life Doula Professional Certificate program, I understand the emotional turbulence that these times can trigger. During such periods, seasonal events may serve as painful reminders of the loved ones we’ve lost. However, they can also become comforting rituals where we connect with our cherished memories and the people who continue to surround us.

Here, I have gathered some strategies that can help cope with the loss of a loved one during the holidays:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings: Grief can manifest in a variety of emotions – sadness, anger, or a feeling of being overwhelmed. It’s not only natural but also essential to let yourself experience these emotions without judgment or suppression.
  2. Talk about the person who has died: Keeping the memory of your loved one alive can be therapeutic. Share your favorite holiday memories of them, continue the traditions they loved. Their physical absence doesn’t preclude their inclusion and honor in our lives.
  3. Take care of yourself: Grief can take a toll on our physical health. Prioritize self-care – ensure adequate sleep, maintain a balanced diet, and incorporate exercise into your routine.
  4. Reach out for support: Do not hesitate to ask for help. Connect with friends, family, or seek professional support if needed. Grief support groups, both online and offline, offer a space of understanding and shared experience.
  5. Create new traditions: If the holidays remind you of your loved one, consider creating new traditions that honor their memory. This could be as simple as lighting a candle or making their favorite dish.
  6. Be kind to yourself: It’s okay to step back from the festivities if needed. Respect your boundaries and don’t push yourself too hard. Remember, your wellbeing matters.
  7. Find comfort in giving: In times of grief, the act of giving can provide profound comfort. Honor your loved one by making a donation in their name to a cause they cherished, or by donating something that symbolizes them to a family in need.
  8. Try something different: Acceptance is a crucial part of the grieving process. Recognize that celebrations may not be the same without your loved one and consider trying something new, like celebrating in a different location or creating new traditions.

Navigating through grief during the holiday season can be challenging, but with self-compassion, support from your community, and the courage to embrace change and create new traditions, it can become an opportunity for healing and growth.

Watch an interview with Denver ABC7 TV where Angela Shook offers tips for grieving during the holidays

Explore UVM’s End-of-Life Doula Professional Certificate Program Today.

Angela Shook

Angela Shook is an end-of-life doula, hospice volunteer, the past president of the National End-of-Life-Doula Alliance (NEDA), and a UVM instructor. She served on the NEDA board from 2018 to 2022 and has earned the NEDA Proficiency Badge. She is a graduate of the UVM End-of-Life Doula Professional Certificate Program, UVM Companion Animal Certificate Program, and numerous other trainings for end-of-life care.