Coping with Grief Over the Holidays

Joliet Area Community Hospice offers two-part class entitled Help with the Holidays

For most of us, the holidays are a time of joy, time filled with family and friends, good food and often, presents. It is a time of year we look forward to. For someone who has lost a loved one, though, it can be a time they dread.

It's okay to say no to parties or even to events that you always attended because you are just not feeling up to it.

"(Those grieving) need to say what do you need what is it you would like from us," Mary Ann Burns, Joliet Area Community Hospice Bereavement Counselor said.

The person who is grieving needs to be the one to decide what he or she wants to do. For the other family members who know someone is grieving, though, it is appropriate to ask.

Families have to decide what the new normal is now that a loved one is gone.

"Do we do the same traditions we always did or are we going to change it?" she said.


What individual families choose to do to celebrate their loved one varies.

Burns said one recommendation Joliet Area Community Hospice gives is to create a memory table.

"We do a memory table and we put many pictures out of people who have gone before us," she said. "All of a sudden you are talking about the person.

"All of a sudden people are talking instead of crying."

The memory table is a good option to honor a lot of family and friends who have passed away without singling one out, which can make the holiday easier for someone who was close to the person who recently passed.

Other options include having a blessing jar or box where relatives and friends can put good memories of the person who has gone before. Joan Sereno, Grundy County Hospice Executive Director said she often recommends burning a candle in honor of the loved one. Some families also chose to set a place at the table for the person or persons who are not there.

One thing that both women have heard from those that are grieving is that it is important to talk about the loss.

"We don't want the elephant in the room," Burn said.

This is especially true when the person who passed is a child. Sereno tells the story about having gone to a conference when a woman who had lost a child stood up and said she went to a Thanksgiving dinner and no one mentioned the child who had passed away.

"I will never forget that woman," she said. "We must remember those who have passed on."


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