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Addressing Holiday Grief with Planned Activities

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Holidays can increase sadness and loneliness.

For most people, holidays bring the joy of togetherness and cheerful fun.  However, holidays also bring grief and sadness to those who are dealing with loneliness and emotional pain due to the loss of loved ones or the loss of good times in life.

Pam Lavender, Director of Grief and Community Outreach at the Kilpatrick Funeral Home, explained that holidays might increase the grief and sadness among some people due to life changes such as losing people to death or separation, having an illness, or moving into new surroundings such as a nursing home. 

For elders, who move into a nursing home, it may be their first Christmas in a new environment and if “no one comes to see them,” they may feel neglected and isolated.  Missing the joy and family-togetherness of past Christmases may heighten their sadness and loneliness.

Lavender suggested that people could take care of their holiday grief in a planned manner such as, “Go to social gatherings but if you don’t feel like it, say ‘no.’ Learn to change some of your gatherings.  Find companionship.  Volunteer!  It is a way to serve others.  Have a plan before you go places.  Have an exit!" 

Lavender advised to "check in with yourself.  Take a moment to breathe.  Ask yourself how you are doing.  Companion yourself, care for yourself.  Listen.  Reach out where it feels good to reach out and curl in when you need to.”

Anita Sharma Ph.D., LCSW, is a Gerontology and Social Work Educator, Researcher, and Practitioner. She holds an M.A. in Medical and Psychiatric Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, a prestigious social sciences university in India, a Master of Social Work (clinical practice) and a Doctorate in Social Work from Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Louisiana and serves as a pro bono consultant to various agencies.
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