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Coping with Loss During the Holidays

Coping with loss during the holidays
by Tracie Jefferson, PA   The best part of practicing in family medicine is getting to know our patient’s unique family dynamics, everyone’s personalities and witnessing your lives together. We get to share in moments of victory, and come alongside you during the times it seems as though defeat is inevitable. Many of you have laughed during your visits with us, we have walked through fearful health moments together, and at times – we have even cried together. As I prepared my home for the holiday season this year, I couldn’t help but reflect on the patients we have who will be celebrating their first holiday season without someone special. For some of them a chronic illness slowly took them away, others traumatic accidents. A few were sudden events and for some we may not even know the cause. Regardless of the reason, the first time doing anything without that special person can be difficult – especially during seasons seeded with deep traditions and rich memories. While we enjoy celebrating the holidays with all of you, we also wanted to take an opportunity to acknowledge the loss many families that come to us are feeling right now. Here are a few tips we compiled to help during this season:
  1. It’s okay to feel what you feel. Many people may feel this is supposed to be a joyful time and that feeling their grief is a betrayal to other family members. This couldn’t be further from the truth though – we must hurt before we can heal. You are not wrong for feeling angry at your loss, anxious, or even betrayed. These are natural stages of the grieving process, they are cyclical and everyone is different on how long we feel this way.
  2. Take care of yourself. We make better decisions when we are rested. Even a few minutes of a self-care ritual daily can go a long way to easing feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. Whether it is an extra-long shower, a brisk walk or snuggling a pet – these are the quiet moments that allow our minds a few minutes to remember that life goes on.
  3. Start a new tradition. Holidays will never be the same without that person and expecting them to be can just build frustration. Instead, try channeling that energy into something new. It can help bring about a fresh energy to some of the festivities and shift your perspective from what was to what can be.
Finally, please don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether from a friend, pastor, counselor, family member or your Sound Family Medicine provider, you don’t have to trudge through the loss alone. We can help connect you with resources and help you decide if there are medications that may be appropriate for your situation. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself, please seek immediate medical care, call 911 or the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Our thoughts are with you during this difficult time and we look forward to being here for you.

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3 Responses

  1. I lost a spouse 21 years ago- every Christmas we light a candle for him and a candle on his birthday.

  2. Ms. Jefferson,
    You have no idea how much this meant to me. We lost our Grandpa this year and it seems that every holiday or special occasion comes with feelings of guilt and sadness, while trying to keep up appearances. Please know that your words were heard today and you have made an impact.

  3. I lost my husband 16 months ago. Even though the pain is less raw than the first year, there are triggers that bring those emotions back such as Christmas music, food, traditions etc. Your love one is never forgotten the grief is just more bearable with time.

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