Coping with Grief During the Holidays
Tips to facing life after loss
With the holiday season in full swing, our team at Ethos Hospice wants to shine a light on an often overlooked aspect of this time of year. For those who are coping with grief during the holidays, the season can shift from a time of celebration and togetherness to an unbearable experience.
As someone coping with the death of a loved one, the thought of family traditions and gatherings may leave you wanting to avoid the holidays altogether. At the same time, there are alternatives to avoidance and isolation. That’s why we reached out to Wendy Tabor-Buth, our Bereavement Coordinator at Ethos, for advice and support strategies to navigate life after loss during the holiday season.
Staying open with yourself and others
Maintaining an open line of communication with yourself and others can bring a sense of comfort and validation to the grieving process. In Wendy’s words, “Seek out caring friends or family who will support you and listen without judging.”
For some, this could mean reevaluating certain traditions from both a physical and emotional standpoint. For others, it may mean waiting to RSVP for a holiday event until the day of. In either case, communicating with family and friends is key.
Giving yourself room to grieve
Best said by Wendy, “Grief looks different for everyone… that’s normal and ok.” Likewise, grief isn’t limited to the first holiday season after a loved one’s death. No two grieving processes are exactly alike. In turn, it’s important to let yourself feel the emotions of grief while leaning on your coping strategies.
As you cope with grief during the holidays, remember to take care of yourself. This means maintaining key health considerations like sleep, nutrition, and exercise to uplift your mood and ease the emotions you may be experiencing.
When you feel ready, consider finding a way to embrace your memories such as sharing stories, lighting a remembrance candle, or revisiting cherished photos. As you do, remember that moments of joy and laughter do not mean you miss your loved one any less.
Connecting with others
By surrounding ourselves with the love and support of caring family members and friends, we can maintain a sense of connection while processing the emotions of grief. In the words of Wendy, “asking for support is an act of strength — not weakness.”
Staying connected also extends beyond family and friends. From checking in regularly with your physician to attending holiday services among your faith community, opportunities to connect are all around us. You may also find meaningful connections through a regular grief group or a grief counselor.
Lending a helping hand
If someone in your life is navigating their first holiday season after the loss of a spouse, cherished friend, or family member, small gestures of kindness go a long way. As Wendy recommends, “listen without judging, minimizing, or giving advice.”
From small gestures like sending a holiday card or helping decorate to holiday event invitations rooted in understanding should they decline, your actions can make a difference. At the same time, looking out for warning signs such as alcohol abuse, withdrawal, personal neglect, or excessive guilt can ensure your loved one’s safety through intervention.
Ethos grief support
At Ethos, our monthly grief support group offers a beacon of hope to those coping with grief during the holidays. Available to hospice family members and loved ones, as well as the community, these sessions put a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on within reach. We encourage you to or call (701) 515-0240 for more information.
Published on December 7th, 2023
More about Wendy Tabor-Buth
Wendy Tabor-Buth brings over 30 years of experience to her role as Bereavement Coordinator at Ethos Hospice. Specializing in grief support and education, Wendy’s career has been devoted to serving individuals and families in hospice care and the greater community.
As a licensed social worker in North Dakota and Minnesota, Wendy holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from Minnesota State University Moorhead. Her dedication goes beyond direct care, encompassing the creation of educational programs for healthcare professionals on topics such as Professional Caregiver Grief and Compassion Fatigue.
Wendy actively contributes to the ethical standards at Ethos as the Co-Chair of the Ethics Committee, facilitating monthly staff support sessions, and participating in organizations like the Northern Plains Conference on Aging and the Senior Coalition. Wendy’s commitment to hospice care aligns seamlessly with the mission of Ethos “To enrich the quality of living for those we serve,” making her a valuable asset to both the organization and the community.