Holidays and Annual Reminders

By: Therese Barrett
Monday, October 7, 2019


James Reid Funeral Home

Bereavement Support Program

October 7, 2019

Therese Barrett

Summer has come to an end and AUTUMN ushers in the HOLIDAY SEASON. Some of us spend the majority of our lives looking forward to the season of shopping, cooking, baking, decorating and family visits. Until …….. we realize that
someone will not be home for the holidays anymore.

Today we will focus more on the upcoming HOLIDAY SEASON but the tips we talk about can be used for all occasions during the year, birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc.

In Canada, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanza and Hanukkah mean families being
together. Everywhere we look we see reminders of happy get-togethers, gifts that
our person would love, food memories and music memories. It can be one of the
most difficult times of the year. We miss the person, we miss the memories and
we miss all that we would like the Holiday Season to be.

Dr. Bill Webster says, “This is not about the HOLIDAY SEASON, this is about
GRIEF.” Many people will try to help us get through the season by keeping us
busy to get our minds off the situation or to continue as if nothing has changed.
In reality, the grief we experience during this season, if acknowledged and
validated, can be a very helpful stage in the reconciliation of our loss.

When someone we care about dies, we grieve. You have heard us talking during
the past months of how grieving is a normal response to a significant loss.
Throughout the grief process we go through periods of feeling like we are coping
well to periods of overwhelming grief so intense that we wonder if we will ever be
normal again.

The HOLIDAY SEASON can contribute to this rollercoaster ride. Whether this is the first HOLIDAY SEASON without your person or your second or even your third, it can be a challenging time. You might revisit the feelings that you thought you had gotten ‘under control’. These are not ‘set-backs’; they are normal. As difficult as this may be, there are some ways to help yourself survive the season.

1. Reduce the Pressure

At the best of times there is a lot of pressure during the HOLIDAY SEASON.
There are some things we can do to help reduce the stress at this time of
the year. 

- How much can I do?
- What do I want to do?
- Acknowledge your limitations
- Leave out the word ‘ought’ this year
- Decide what needs to be done, decide what you are able to do, then
find an acceptable balance
- Plan ahead
- Change the way you shop for gifts


2. Re-evaluate the Tradition

Traditions are commonplace during the HOLIDAY SEASON. Traditions may
involve the food we eat, the way we decorate, the way we exchange gifts,
the visiting and our spiritual traditions. Although these traditions may be
difficult, try not to deny yourself the opportunity to visit some of the
memories. What are some traditions that we can continue or decide to add
or change?

- Should I put up a tree? Why? Why not?
- What about the decorations?
- Will I make a big dinner?
- Do I have to eat at home?
- Can I delegate some of the tasks?
- Do I send cards this year? (can be a good way of letting people know
about the death)
- This year the traditions are about you. Do what makes you happy, not
necessarily the ones that were your person’s favourite.


3. Re-define your expectations

This is a time to realize that we are responsible for our own happiness.
When someone close to us dies, we feel loneliness & isolation. In some
ways we want someone to rescue us, but then we realize that we might be
disappointed with this expectation. We need to ACT rather than RE-ACT.
How can we do this?

- Phone others who may be alone
- Call friends you would like to spend time with
- Attend parties with an ‘out’ for yourself, such as, "I’d love to attend but I’ve been going through a grieving time. If I decide not to come at the last minute would you understand?" or "I’m glad to have been invited but if I find it too emotional I know you will understand if I excuse myself early."


Sometimes we feel guilty because we are able to experience the HOLIDAY SEASON and our person cannot. This is a normal feeling and one that is difficult to work through.
- Take a break from grief. If you feel guilty ask yourself what would your person want you to be doing?
- The most important thing to remember is to KEEP BREATHING! Everything else you can negotiate


4. Re-live the memories

The HOLIDAY SEASON, especially during grief, will be a time of many memories. We might try to avoid the subject of ‘loss’. We might be afraid to upset others or that we might get too emotional. Denying the pain and the memories is sometimes harder than facing up to it. Let’s talk about some things we can do to make this a meaningful time for us.

- Light a candle to honour the missing person at the table
- Share stories about your person
- Visit the cemetery
- Make a donation in the name of your person
- Attend a memorial service (Candle-light service on Dec.2)
- Include your person if you put up stockings. (fill with memorial flowers or
have family members write notes to your person
- Buy a gift for your person then give it to someone who would otherwise
not have a gift

All holidays are intended as a time of love and remembrance. We can be thankful for yesterday but we are living in today.  

Be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to do what means the most to
you and what can make you happy. Remember to involve others who may
also be struggling with their grief. Try to eat healthy, get exercise and try to get
some rest.


The Mourning Handbook Helen Fitzgerald,1994 (Simon & Schuster)
A Not So Jolly Christmas Dr. Bill Webster, 1996 (Greenleaf Consultants)
Past Presentations by Dorothy Messenger 2017, (James Reid Funeral Home)
Past Presentation by Nancy Hancock 2018, (James Reid Funeral Home)


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