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Tips for Handling the Holidays


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From our friends at Open to Hope:

Written by Alan Pedersen on Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tips for Handling the Holidays - A Webinar from open to hope foundation and the compassionate friends

This exclusive webinar focuses on how to deal with the holidays following a loss. It features Drs. Gloria and Heidi Horsley along with Alan Pedersen, Executive Director ofThe Compassionate Friends. “You don’t walk alone on your journey,” says Dr. Gloria Horsley, and she knows this can be a very challenging time of year. The holidays bring back the memories, although people grieve all the time. There are a lot of reminders about what you’ve lost, and it’s full of bittersweet memories. “All we think about is what we’ve lost,” says Pedersen, at least in the early stage of grieving.

A lot of well-meaning people will tell you your loved one would want you to enjoy the holidays, but that’s rarely helpful. In the early grieving stage, you just go through the motions. Grief is centered on the person you lost, and you’ll have to “fake it ‘til you make it.” Doing  this  is considered a success. For Pedersen, they leave out a place setting for his daughter who died, and looking at that empty place setting gets easier over the years.

Happy Holidays?

In the mid grief stage, grief is centered on you and what you’ve lost. Your emotions are very strong, and this might be a great time to make some modifications to your holiday season. In later grief stages, you’re in better control of your emotions or you’ve developed a new holiday tradition. A lot of family/friends will expect that you’ve moved on, but it’s still common to be blindsided by reminders and backtrack to those earlier grief stages.

As for survival tips, let people know early what your holiday routine will be. Pick the holiday activities you want to attend and practice saying no if necessary.

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Good advice!

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  • 2 months later...

Coping With The Holidays: Suggested Resources 2015

I watch the happiness of others, quietly resenting the healthy intact families finding joy at their holiday table. A tinge of jealousy sneaks its way to the surface. The holidays present another level of grief.  ~ Julie Siri

In my daily travels around the Internet, I am always on the lookout for helpful articles and reliable resources that I can recommend and share with my readers. This is especially important during the holiday season, which for many mourners and caregivers can be a difficult and challenging time.

Click on the title above for links to articles and resources I’ve gathered so far this year, which I hope you will find informative and useful. Over the next several weeks I’ll be building upon this list, so I encourage you to check back often to see what’s been added. 
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  • 2 weeks later...

There was an article in The Register Guard today about this, I'll try to print it here:


Holiday blues.pdf

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I just finished listening to this excellent webinar ~ it will play again on the Compassionate Friends website later. Excellent for those in early grief. 

Webinar 12/14/2015 Handling the Holidays After a Traumatic Loss with Dr. Gloria and Heidi Horsley (lost a son and brother) and Mary Fetchet (she lost a son in 911)

PowerPoint Thoughts:

The Impact of Loss

·      Loss may affect holiday traditions

·      Gatherings with family and friends

·      Family traditions and rituals

·      Gift giving

·      Holiday decorating

·      Feeling out of synch

·      Recalling previous holidays and feeling nostalgic

·      The empty chair 

Think of what you can do or can’t do

·      Create a wreath (things that the person liked)

·      Have a toast –make it all-inclusive to remember everyone

You will get over the intense pain – you will never be over the one you lost – there will always be a hole in your heart  

Let others support you

How others can help

·      Listening – not trying to solve anything – just being there to listen

·      Anticipating your needs – bring expertise –drive for them – shovel snow 

·      Offering help and support with specific tasks

·      Including you in their family gatherings

Taking care of yourself

·      Take time for yourself

·      Surround self with supportive people

·      Accept help from others

Do what you can…remember, there is always next year

The first year you are frozen – you need to get support – you are in survival mode – do only what you need to do  

Commemorate your loved one

·      Light a memorial candle – there is a presence in the room

·      Share stories about your loved one

·      Create a memorabilia table

·      Perform an act of kindness in memory of the person

·      Hold a memorial ceremony

·      Create a tribute that honors the life of your loved one in perpetuity

Remember – you can’t FIX things – just be with them – take the lead in what the person wants

When you are grieving everything is difficult – if shopping is hard – go out

Shift your grief into service

Grief changes over time

People grieve differently and in their own time

***Traditions change and new traditions are born

 ***Ask and look for help from others or organizations

Mary Fetchet – guest speaker at tonight’s webinar -mafetchet@voicesofseptember11.org

Dr. Gloria Horsley & Dr. Heidi Horsley - Opentohope@me.com

The Compassionate Friends - nationaloffice@compassionatefriends.org



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Very, very good, Anne.  I hope everyone comes here and reads this.

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  • 10 months later...

Coping with the Holidays: Suggested Resources 2016

[Most recent update: Monday, November 14, 2016]

It's funny to think that Christmas — a time known for its joyful togetherness — can be the loneliest time of the year for some. ~ Giovanna Fletcher
Once again we find ourselves heading into the holiday season, which for many of us can be a stressful and challenging time, especially if we're anticipating or coping with the loss of a loved one. Fortunately the Internet offers access to a variety of useful and reliable resources that can help us find our way through these difficult days. In addition, many community hospices and mortuaries offer programs and workshops to guide and support individuals and families in navigating the holidays. 

As I’ve done in years past, I’ll be looking online for articles, webinars and other reliable resources to recommend to my readers, and each day throughout the holiday season I’ll be posting links to them on this page. Since I am building upon this list on a daily basis, I invite you to check back often to see what’s been added.
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I love your list about coping with the holidays and have found several of the links to be so helpful, Marty.

I found this one and liked the message it contained ~ I didn't see it in your updated list. . .


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The holidays are upon us. Grief during this time of year can be especially challenging. We want to help.
By special arrangement with Amazon, Surviving the Holidays Without You (Kindle version) will be FREE this weekend.
This easy-to-read, intensely practical volume is designed to be a grief survival kit for the holidays. Here is what a few have said about this 2016 Book Excellence Award Finalist:
"If you’ve lost a loved one or are reaching out to those who are grieving, this book should be the very next thing you read. The valuable content and the practical tips and suggestions will equip you to not only survive the holidays but grow and heal." - Athena Dean, Redemption Press
"This is an honest and enormously helpful book to have approaching the holidays, a tender read written full of heart and wisdom."  - Bridgett Shockey, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
"This book will make a difference for those who read it. The concepts and ideas Gary presents can change your holiday experience from one of dread to remembrance and thanksgiving. I highly recommend it." - Paul Casale, Licensed Professional Counselor
To grab your FREE copy, click here. 
Gary Roe
P.S. You don’t have to own a Kindle to take advantage of this free offer. All you need is a Kindle reader. Click here to find the FREE Kindle reader for your particular device.
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This came in my email today and I really like what Deepak Chopra says ~ 

In the Holiday Spirit: Giving, Gratitude, and Grace

woman giving a hug

It would be beautiful to use the holiday season to spiritually expand, to show that this time of year is more than a hectic splurge of spending that leads to stress, family conflict, and depression. Many people experience that negative reality and don't know how to change it into something more positive. The key is to think in terms of things you can do that benefit you while at the same time connecting with others at a deep level.

I'm thinking of three words that we can all focus on: giving, gratitude, and grace.


Giving has become so materialistic around holiday time that it's easy to forget how meaningful it is to give of yourself. In practical terms, this means being generous when you interact with others, sending the following messages:

  • "I care."
  • "I am here for you."
  • "You matter."
  • "I appreciate you."
  • "I feel warmth in my heart for you."
  • "Here is my love."

When you can actually say these words, it makes a difference in other people's lives, especially those who are close to you but get taken for granted.

Sometimes, however, it's hard to find a comfortable way to speak from the heart. If this is the case, you can give through your awareness. The following meditation for giving is a powerful way to connect or reconnect with anyone in your life:

  • Sit quietly and bring to mind somebody you want to be the recipient. It helps to visualize their face as clearly as you can.
  • Now think to yourself any combination of or all of the messages listed above. For example, “I appreciate you.” And  “Here is my love.”
  • Pause after each one and let its meaning sink into your consciousness.
  • Wait until you feel the warmth and sincerity of your message before moving on to the next one.


Gratitude has become a hollow gesture we overplay in our "thank you . . . not a problem" society, when in reality it's a powerful spiritual value. During the holidays, you can meditate on gratitudeusing the same messages as in the giving meditation, only with a change of focus. Now the messages are:

  • "You care."
  • "You are here for me."
  • "You show that I matter."
  • "You appreciate me."
  • "You show warmth of heart toward me."
  • "You give me love."

Similar to before, try the following meditation for gratitude:

  • Sit quietly and focus on the person who is the recipient of these messages.
  • Think each message, adding the words "thank you" after each phrase.  
  • Let this feeling sink in before moving on to the next message.

Gratitude and giving, when focused through these meditations, opens up a clear path between two people at the level of feeling and even a deeper level of shared awareness. But there is also purification, because when you express gratitude from the heart, old resentments and negative feelings are detoxified.


An uncommon spiritual quality is grace, which belongs to the purest level of awareness, where a single spirit embraces everyone and everything. Grace is that quality in consciousness that enables us to feel safe, protected, loved, and blessed to be alive. The world's wisdom traditions speak of uniting with pure awareness as enlightenment, unity consciousness, or Yoga (union with the source). By meditating on grace, we bring it more into everyday awareness and give room for experiencing grace in our own lives. 

This meditation requires no words, simply sitting quietly, feeling centered and calm:

  • Place your awareness in the region of your heart, and visualize a soft light there, which gradually expands as you gently breathe.
  • See the light permeate your body and slowly expand until it fills the whole area around you.
  • Be with the light for a few moments, softly speaking or thinking the words, "This is the light of life. This is my true being."
  • Let its living presence imbue your being, without forcing anything.
  • Realize that all you cherish, not just over the holidays but throughout the year, comes by the grace of pure Being. This is the attitude that keeps life fresh and renewing; it opens the way to the path of enlightenment.

I am covering a consciousness-based approach because it is the most powerful way to open up avenues of change. When we speak of taking responsibility for our beliefs and feelings, the deeper we go in awareness, the more lasting and positive the change we are aiming for. But the holidays are also a time of doing, and with regard to spiritual values, these are good practices to keep in mind.

Don't be drawn into holiday complaining. Remain composed and centered. Always be willing to give of yourself—this is most needed when others feel frazzled and stretched beyond their comfort zone.

Give others a reason to feel gratitude by going out of your way to show your caring support. This is doubly valuable if you perform service for those in need, including the homeless, the sick, and the poor. Charity that comes from the heart is an expression of love that will be received at the level of the heart.

Exhibit grace by opening yourself to everyone in a non-judgmental, accepting way. We are spirit's conscious agents, and grace remains abstract until it is given a human face. When you are living with the attitude of grace in action, God has descended on earth.

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Thank you, Anne ~ I've added it to our list: Coping with The Holidays: Suggested Resources 2016.

Here's a newsletter I received from Chelsea Hanson, purveyor of With Sympathy Gifts and Keepsakes. Although it contains some advertising of her products, it also offers some really nice ideas for honoring a loved one at Thanksgiving, in case you're looking for some of those. See How can you enjoy this Thanksgiving in honor of a loved one? and scroll down through the entire newsletter.

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This is a FREE eCourse by What's Your Grief ~ "Coping with Grief During the Holidays" ~ it is self-directed so you do it at your own pace. 

Did you sign up for WYG's 'Coping with Grief During the Holidays' eCourse? Now that the Thanksgiving holiday is over, head over and start navigating through the course. Also, don't forget to post in the class forum. If you aren't registered, there's still time (and it's free).


Please register to indicate your interest in taking this course. If we are able to meet minimum participation, this will be available in mid-November.
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From the Grief Healing blog: Permission to Mourn This Holiday Season

The following is a gift from Harold Ivan Smith, noted writer, teacher, storyteller and grief expert.  It is reprinted here with his permission.  Especially over the holidays, you may wish to copy, paste and print it, fill it in and share it with anyone who needs help in understanding and accepting where you are at this point in your grief journey.

Permission to Mourn
The holder of this certificate,  ________________________________________,

is hereby entitled to publicly acknowledge his or her loss, mourn openly,

to share narratives of the loss, and to recruit social support in his or her own way and time,

without apology or embarrassment during this holiday season.

Tears, memories, silence, uncertainty, and strong emotions are hereby enfranchised.

Please treat this griever with kindness, compassion, and love.

Signed this _____ day of __________, in the year _____.
This certification has no expiration date.

Text © by Harold Ivan Smith and reprinted with permission
Illustration © by Kara LC Jones and used with permission
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5 Gifts To Give Yourself This Holiday Season


Another December has arrived and once again we are busily preparing for the holiday rituals that will take place as the year winds to an end. This is a perfect time to stop for a moment and really think about the meaning of your own celebrations, so that you don’t end up spending a fortune in time and money with nothing real to show when it is over.

This is the year that you should dedicate yourself to staying in the present moment as much as possible, no matter how crazy and hectic your schedule becomes. If you race through each day of the season, mindlessly completing the items on your to-do list, you can become exhausted, depleted and resentful and totally miss the joys of this special time of year. But you can thrive throughout this busy season by following a few simple suggestions.

The solution is to give yourself some special gifts this year. I’m not talking about gifts that cost money or are indulgent, like a spa day, a fancy night on the town, or an exotic vacation — though those things may be just what you need right now. But these are some splurges for the “Soul” — activities that will help you find meaning during these holidays:

  1. The Gift of Solitude

No matter how busy you are, take some time out to be totally alone for part of one day or evening. Try to find a place to go where you will not be around other people and turn your phone off or leave it behind for at least one hour. I live in the mountains and it’s easy for me to snowshoe on a trail above my house and walk in solitude for an entire day. But if you live in a city you may have to be creative: find a park where you can sit in an out-of-the-way grove, visit a little-used section of your local library, or find a time when you have your home to yourself, with no internet, television or radio to distract you.

The idea is to be alone with your thoughts for just one hour. During that time, take some deep breaths, think about the holiday that is approaching, reminisce about good times in the past, and contemplate what is most important to you about this season. Think of at least one thing you love about the holidays and plan how you can emphasize that activity or feeling in your life this year.

2. The Gift of Spontaneity

Be watchful for opportunities to do something special that is not on your to-do list: wander through a local neighborhood to look at the lights, stop to listen to carolers on the street corner, take in the special window displays downtown, make a snow-angel or build a snowman if you live in a cold climate.

3. The Gift of Wisdom

Spend some time reading from one of the great Wisdom texts available to us: the Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Kabbalah, I Ching, The Gospel of Thomas, Tao te Ching, the poetry of Rumi or countless other sources. Immerse yourself in the beautiful language and thoughtful sentiments in these ancient writings. As Rumi wrote: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.”

4. The Gift of Hunger

This may not sound like a gift at all, but I encourage you — just once during the holidays — to skip a meal. In this season of baking, feasting, partying and frequent overindulgence, it is an interesting experiment to go without eating for part of a day. When you have felt hunger for a few hours you will actually appreciate the abundant food that surrounds you and remember those who are not so fortunate at this or any other time of the year. You might even want to donate the money you save from that meal to a local soup kitchen or charity.

5. The Gift of Stars

Though it may be difficult for some, depending on where you live, I recommend going to a place one evening where you can look up and see the stars. Lie back for a brief time and study the vastness of the universe, reminding yourself how small we really are here on our beautiful planet. All of the rushing, shopping, buying, wrapping, baking, and entertaining that fill up your schedule are not really important when you consider the entire expanse of creation. But the Love that you feel and share with others rises above everything as what really matters during this holiday season.

And finally, no matter which of the above gifts you choose to give yourself this year, I suggest that you spend some time writing about the experience in your journal. Remember to express your gratitude every day for this amazing life and all the blessings that have been showered upon you, during the holidays and all year long. May you have a December to remember as you bring this year to a close and share your gifts with the world!

If you are interested in starting a journal or enhancing your journaling practice, you can download the “Journaling Starter Kit” atwww.karenwyattmd.com (no obligation — you don’t even have to sign up!) Enjoy this gift of reflection and may your days be blessed with what really matters!

About the Author:
 (Dr. Karen Wyatt is a hospice and family physician and the author of the award-winning book “What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying.” She is a frequent keynote speaker and radio show guest whose profound teachings have helped many find their way through the difficult times of life. Learn more about her work at www.karenwyattmd.com.)

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If you celebrate the holiday in any way I think this is a wonderful idea for those who have children or grandchildren in their lives who have lost a loved one. I’m doing this with my grandchildren this year over FaceTime to continue to honor their grandfather. The idea can be adapted for whatever holiday you celebrate.

Idea from What's Your Grief

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Home For the Holidays

Finding a place to survive when your world has been torn apart.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice or another observance that you celebrate at this time of year, our memories of being HOME for it are probably similar. 

The idea of going HOME for the holidays fills us with warm images, of sleigh bells and dreidels, of lattes and latkes, of Hallmark moments complete with snow, ice skating, and houses with glowing lights. Although if we live in a warmer climate, Santa might wear shorts, and Christmas lights are strung in palm not pine trees.

We remember the HOME where we grew up, the holiday activities we’d do every year, the decorations we’d put up, the special foods we’d eat, and all the various gatherings of family and friends. Eventually, we moved away and began our own lives, creating a new HOME with a different set of holiday traditions.
No matter how old we are, when the holidays come around every year, our minds return HOME to a place that has become slightly mythical, a place of warmth where there was always love, friendly banter, and endless sugar cookies. 

Going HOME renewed our sense of hope that had flagged over the year. Returning HOME was like starting over. We could dream again of how wonderful life could be. It was our bar at “Cheers” where everyone knew our name and accepted us with all our faults.


The first holiday season after the death of someone we loved, our sense of HOME is pretty much destroyed. 

Where we live now feels wrong because someone dear to us, someone who made our life a home, is missing, and what we’re left with is a house that feels empty. The song “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” takes on irony. Besides muttering angry thoughts under our breath every time we hear it, we still desperately want to reclaim whatever is left of HOME so that we can wrap ourselves in it until the holidays are over.


The Christmas after Evelyn died was incredibly hard because it was her favorite season. She loved to decorate, bake, sing in holiday Revels shows, and buy gifts for everyone she knew. Often I plugged into her energy. That first year I actually managed to put up a Christmas tree on the first Sunday of Advent, but could not motivate myself to add any lights or decorations. 

On Christmas Eve, feeling a little better, I added a single strand of white lights and two ornaments, a white-silver heart with red and green garlands for Evelyn’s love, and a dark-green, tissue-paper heart for me, because my heart felt torn and dark. Rather than play Christmas music, especially the happy Swedish songs that Ev loved, I put on a CD by Sarah McLachlan singing of her losses and longing: “the night’s too long and cold here without you.” It seemed more appropriate for remembering that refugee family from long ago.

The problem with the holidays is that we are always looking in the wrong direction. We keep looking back wanting to find that idyllic past and replicate that perfect holiday, instead of looking ahead to see what risks we can take for new visions, what new adventures we can go on, and how we can deepen our core relationships.

Each year we should celebrate the holidays in new ways because life has taken us to a new place. If we lost someone this year, we don’t have much choice.

Posted by Mark Liebenow at 6:46 AM 
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