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Holiday grief in 2020 will be unprecedented - Phaneuf

Holiday grief in 2020 will be unprecedented

Holiday traditions are a source of comfort and joy, but the ongoing pandemic makes their social nature a threat to our physical health. But what about our mental health? Trick or treating and Halloween parties are not an option for many people, but that is just the start of a busy holiday season. 

Many people are already in grieving mode, and canceled holiday gatherings will mean unprecedented  holiday grief in 2020. That’s unavoidable with all the uncertainty of our first fall and winter living with the coronavirus. 

Grieving around the holidays is nothing new, but it will affect more of us this year who will grieve not only loved ones no longer with us, but also the traditions that aren’t happening due to  social distancing for safety.

Perhaps you can’t be home for the holidays, but you can still provide loved ones with hope.  Hopefully these tips help you if you’re feeling “holiday hopeless.”

Let’s call it what it is

“Social distancing” is the term we hear most often around the pandemic, but due to technology we’re not so much socially distanced from loved ones as we are physically distanced.

Physical distance from our loved ones is a top challenge we’re faced with this holiday season. That physical contact—a hug, holding a hand, a pat on grandkids’ heads — is going to be missing for many of us who choose to stay home and safe with those we’ve been living with. For some, who live alone or in assisted living, that means no warming touch from a loved one this season, which can drive some deeper into grief and depression.

Touch is an important sense, but it’s not our only one. Seeing a loved one on a screen and receiving a virtual kiss, hug, high five or handshake isn’t the same as the “real thing,” but it is something.

We have to get creative this year to stay in touch when we can’t physically touch or be in the same room safely. Here are a couple ideas to inspire your senses:

Can’t be together at Grandma’s house? Ask Grandma to mail a kitchen towel or small blanket to you that has that “Grandma’s house smell.”

The big meal? It’s not wise for gatherings of 15, 20 or 30 family members this season. For those who cannot prepare a big feast, consider making some extra and delivering a hot, home-cooked meal on the porch (and wave through the glass).

Honor your traditions remotely, if that feels right

Speaking of the big meal, while you can’t all be physically in the same room, you can pick a time to all eat together and share that experience over Zoom or whatever app you use to stay in touch these days.

Just because you’re not all physically together, don’t avoid honoring and remembering those who died. If your family tradition is taking  time to remember those who died, do so online, and take turns sharing memories or stories.

When your head fills with grief as we get closer to the holiday season, take a look at this list and take action on at least one of these:

  • Be forthright with others and yourself and engage (and understand it’s OK sometimes to not engage if it’s making you too sad).
  • Reach out to others who might struggle to communicate this time of year.
  • Share messages of encouragement with friends and loved ones.
  • If the stimuli of the holidays brings painful triggers, don’t be afraid to communicate that to others.

What are some new holiday traditions you can do from the safety of home that we can share with others? Your ideas are appreciated!

This blog post answers the question how to get through grief during the holidays

How to get through grief during the holidays?

Here are five ways to help you not only get through but enjoy your holiday season: Acknowledge How You Feel. Let Others Grieve Their Own Way. Discuss Plans. Create a New Tradition. Make a Remembrance Gesture.

You Can Easily Start Planning Now.

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