VITAS’ KATHLEEN KASHOW: 5 Ways to Plan for the Holidays After the Death of a Loved One
By Kathleen Kashow, VITAS Healthcare // December 15, 2020
VITAS support groups provide information, guidance to those experiencing grief and loss
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Facing the holidays after the death of a loved one is difficult, especially in the first few years.
The bereavement experts at VITAS Healthcare offer suggestions to help you and your family cope, enjoy time together, and honor a deceased loved one during the holidays.
1. Ask each family member for their thoughts and preferences about participating in holiday preparations and traditions.
A family meeting will help you discuss the role your loved one played in your holiday traditions. Did Mom always bring her signature pie? Did Grandad always say a special prayer? Maybe you and your spouse always put up the tree together. By talking about what you’ll miss most about your loved one’s absence, you and your family are taking the first step to cope with your grief.
2. Review all holiday-associated activities. Consider what to keep and what to change this year.
If you and your family decide to continue with holiday family traditions, maybe someone else can fulfill the role of your loved one. Replicating Mom’s signature pie can be a comfort to everyone and a great way to honor her memory. Each member of the family should do only what they feel most capable of handling, and everyone should honor the choices made by the entire family.
Remember: No one says you have to do things the way you have in the past. Feelings of grief ebb and flow. You may feel upbeat and energetic one moment and overwhelmingly sad and tired the next. It is a time to be kind to yourself and to help others understand how you feel and what you need.
3. Decide how to include the memory of your loved one in holiday events.
A chair may be empty, but your loved one will be present in your mind and heart. Look through photo albums and tell stories about your loved one who is gone. This can make you feel connected to each other and to the loved one who died.
4. Respond to holiday invitations.
Plan to be with people you enjoy, even if just for a few moments. Ask a friend to accompany you, and stay only as long as you want. Allow yourself to decline invitations you don’t want to accept.
5. Realize that your fear of the holidays may be worse than the reality.
The fear of going through the holiday season without a loved one may be worse than the reality as you surround yourself with family, friends, and others who understand what you’re going through. Allow yourself to enjoy “golden moments” when you can see the joy of the season. Your loved one would want that for you.
VITAS offers remote bereavement support groups, free of charge. Led by VITAS bereavement specialists, these support groups provide information and guidance to those experiencing grief and loss. Learn more and sign up at VITAS.com/grief.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathleen Kashow is general manager for VITAS in Brevard County, Florida. For more information about end-of-life care options, call VITAS Healthcare at 321.339.2893 or visit VITAS.com
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