British Columbia

How to deal with grief during the holiday season

The holiday season is supposed to be full of joy and cheer, but it can be a difficult time for those who have lost a loved one.

'They need to be able to be with people they can talk about their grief with and not pretend it didn't happen'

It can be difficult to reconcile feelings of grief with the hustle and bustle of surrounding festivities, according to grief counsellors. (altanaka/Shutterstock)

The holiday season is supposed to be full of joy and cheer, but it can be a difficult time for those who have lost a loved one. Reconciling feelings of grief with the hustle and bustle of surrounding festivities can seem impossible

The key to surviving the shopping malls and Christmas parties is to plan ahead and gather support around you, says Lynette Pollard-Elgert, a grief counsellor at the Living Through Loss Counselling Society of B.C.

"People just don't feel that way if they're in deep grief. They want to just be able to look at their loss and not be happy. The problem is at this time of the year the expectation is to be happy," says Pollard-Elgert.

Here are a few tips for those dealing with grief during the holidays.

1. Plan ahead

Pollard-Elgert says people in grief should plan ahead to ensure they are with people they can tell their true feelings to during the holidays.

"They need to be able to be with people they can talk about their grief with and not pretend it didn't happen."

Make arrangements for Christmas Day or any other time you would feel obligated to act happy.

2. Re-evaluate family traditions

As tempting as it may be to try and continue family traditions in memory of loved ones, it is better to make new ones, says Pollard-Elgert.

"You don't want to have that empty chair at the Christmas dinner table."

She suggests going out for dinner at a hotel or spending the season with different friends.

3. Find holiday services

Many charities and organizations put on a holiday dinner and service for those who don't have family or friends in town, says Pollard-Elgert. Examples include hospices, faith-based groups like churches or synagogues.

4. Seek counselling

Counseling can be extremely helpful especially if your friends and family struggle to know what to say around you.

"We're a grief-denying and sadness-denying society. We don't know what to say to people"

Pollard-Elgert hosts grief workshops where she helps people "deal with a happy time when they're not happy."

At the workshops, people gather and share their stories and pictures of loved ones.

To learn more, visit the Living Through Loss Counselling Society of B.C. on Commercial Drive or call them at 604-873-5013.

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