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Your Healthy Family: Coping with grief during the holidays

Posted at 6:46 PM, Dec 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 13:46:52-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — The holidays can be a uniquely challenging time to process grief. Whether it’s a recent loss of a loved one or a loss that's hard to move past year after year.

Deb Kanaan is the Director of Grief Support and Volunteer Services with Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care in Colorado Springs. Deb says, “If you have lost someone important in your family and the holidays were always their thing, you're always going to notice that they're not there around this time of year.”

Deb says making a plan to manage expectations is an important key to navigating the holidays. “There are great expectations about the holidays being a joyous time. There are family traditions that may be difficult to observe if you've lost someone. It's a challenging time when you're feeling sad and you're not really looking forward to the holidays.”

Deb outlines a few steps you can take to have a solid plan. “It is important to have someone close to you, someone who cares about you that you can talk to about how you feel. We may hear the advice all the time, ‘Well, just get over it.’ It's important to be able to talk to somebody and say, ‘It's that time of year, and I'm feeling blue, I just hate going to social events. It’s really hard, but I'm going to do it.”

Also remember the anticipation of a holiday event can be worse than the actual event itself says Deb. “We worry, we stress thinking it’s going to be so awful dealing with anticipation and anxiety. By making a plan and telling yourself, ‘I know it’s going to be a hard day so here's what I'm going to do, and here's what I'm not going to do,’ and enlist your friends in that plan. What happens doesn’t matter but at least that will manage the anxiety of the anticipation.”

Deb also says to think about managing the expectations that others may have of you ahead of time. “You can agree to a social event with a back door. Say, ‘I'll come on Saturday but this grief thing is up and down every day. I never know how I'm going to feel, so if by Saturday it's a really bad day I might have to back out.’ Or say, ‘Sure I'll come to your family dinner but I'll just come for dessert and stay for an hour and a half instead of staying all day.’ You just have to accept how you feel know what you can manage, and communicate that to others.”

Finally, Deb says to remember there is help available to manage tough emotions during the holidays - especially grief around the loss of loved one or close friend. “Some of the hardest parts about feeling so sad and mourning is feeling alone. The person you most want to share your feelings with is the person who's died. Where do you go for support? If it's really hard, sometimes getting help and having someone who understands your journey, and can give you ideas about what to expect and how to get through it, is really useful.”

Finding the courage to reach out when you know you need help will likely be the hardest part and can make a heavy burden easier to bear says Deb. “Sometimes you just need some help because it's just too hard, and there is no shame in that. It is a hard thing to go forward. Here at Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care we offer free grief support to the community. You can just call us and we'll talk to you on the phone, or you can make an appointment to come in. We also have support groups that happen five or six times a year, that you can sign up for.”

To learn more about those services and support groups you can call Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care at 719.633.3400 or visit their website here (

Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care is a proud sponsor of Your Healthy Family