OncoLink

The Holidays will be canceled this season! Balancing grief and the holidays

Neal R. Niznan MSW, LSW
Clinical Social Worker at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: November 30, 2005

Lights, music, gifts, decorations, holiday gatherings of family and friends? our society almost forces us to be in a good mood during the holiday season. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, your feelings may be inconsistent with the way others "want" you to feel. How to participate in the activities of the holiday, without pressure to compromise your feelings, is not an easy task. The following points may enable you to balance feelings of grief with the "holiday spirit."

  • Set the pace this season and decide what is important for you. Plan with family which traditions to include and what to let go of this year.
  • Listen for the needs of family members and try to incorporate them into the plan.
  • Avoid canceling the holidays. You can take time to be alone but do not isolate yourself.
  • Accept help from others to manage the particulars of holiday celebrations. Being responsible for all the preparations is physically and emotionally draining.
  • Anticipation of holiday events often leads to excessive worry and loss of sleep. Take time to relax.
  • Be aware of increased alcohol intake. It may dull your feelings but only temporarily.
  • Remember the deceased loved one in a special symbolic way during the holidays. This gives others permission to share their feelings.

This is your holiday. Let it have meaning for you and your family. Allow yourself the opportunity to express tears, sadness, anger, and even laughter. Accept comfort from those you love. Expressing your feelings and needs will help you manage this difficult season.

Adapted from: Hyman, M. How to Handle the Holidays