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Grieving at the holidays: A self-care challenge

By DEB LAMBO

Heart of Hospice

We all know that the holidays are special — and stressful. Add grief and, well, it can be difficult at best.

What experts know is that planning how to handle the holidays can make a huge difference, and actually reduce the stress.

We’ve designed a little “game” to help lighten the load a little, with reminders along the way to help you manage at a time when managing can be hard.

The guidelines: Every day between now and New Year’s Day, choose one of the items from the idea list (below) to do. You may be able to do some several times. Be sure to space “repeaters” out — i.e., if you choose to spend some alone time, just make sure you do that every second or third day, with other “to-do’s” in between. Don’t worry if you forget to do something one day — just pick up where you can. Remember: This is for fun, not an activity to be used to be hard on yourself.

A couple of suggestions:

n Take your calendar and, beginning with today, choose one item a day and write it on each day of the calendar. For example: Today, you may decide to “take a walk outside;”the day after, “listen to seasonal music;”the Saturday after, “ask for help if you need it;” and so on. This way, you have a plan to get you through the holidays (always keeping in mind that you can modify it as needed).

n Take your calendar, and as you choose an item each day, write it down on that date. It helps you recall what you have done. You can even rate your activity at the end of the day (a dash [–] for not helpful, a slash [/] for neutral, and a plus sign [+] for helpful, so you can refer back to see what has assisted you.

Most importantly, HAVE SOME FUN with these activities. For more ideas and support, go to the Heart of Hospice Foundation website at http://heartofhospicefoundation.org . Most importantly, give yourself time, space and grace. Recall what your loved one would want for you — to live, to laugh and to love.

n

Lambo has worked with Heart of Hospice and Heart of Hospice Foundation for almost four years as a mental health clinician and bereavement services coordinator. She has an extensive background in clinical psychology and education, and is both a children’s mental health specialist and a geriatric mental health specialist. She enjoys helping people overcome adversity and stress, in order to have a fulfilling and meaningful life.

  1. Smile

  2. Listen to holiday music

  3. Spend an hour helping at the food bank

  4. Attend a religious/spiritual service

  5. Write in your journal

  6. Make a gift to charity in your loved one’s memory

  7. Take a walk outside

  8. Be compassionate with yourself

  9. Take a nap

  10. Call an old friend

  11. Bake Christmas cookies

  12. Help someone bake cookies

  13. Light a candle

  14. Attend a grief group

  15. Talk about your loved one

  16. Hug three people today

  17. Decorate a tree

  18. Select an ornament in remembrance of your loved one

  19. Donate a gift to charity in your loved one’s memory

  20. Have a holiday toast

  21. Pick up a piece of litter

  22. Write a holiday letter to your departed loved one

  23. Send five holiday cards

  24. Take some baked goods to a senior center

  25. Call or visit someone who cannot get out easily

  26. Tell your family one thing you’d like to do for the holidays

  27. Take flowers or an ornament to the cemetery or mausoleum or place where your loved one’s remains are

  28. Attend a holiday memorial service (there are several in the community this time of year)

  29. Volunteer an hour or two this week to an organization you believe in

  30. Let yourself have a good cry

  31. Let yourself have a good laugh!

  32. Wrap three gifts

  33. Make your loved one’s favorite dish for a holiday gathering

  34. Give 10 hugs today

  35. Spend quiet time alone

  36. Modify your decorations

  37. Ask someone to help you with a holiday project

  38. Choose not to put up decorations

  39. Let others help you decorate

  40. Give cash or gift cards

  41. Make your gifts

  42. Have a friend help you with (shopping, wrapping, baking, etc. — pick one)

  43. Make a list of gifts to buy before going out

  44. Turn off the holiday music

  45. Make a new tradition this holiday

  46. Keep an old familiar tradition this holiday

  47. Take a drive

  48. Tell your family one thing you do not want to do for the holidays

  49. Invite a friend over

  50. Decline an invitation

  51. Ask for help if you need it

  52. Express your emotions

  53. Eat something healthy today

  54. Identify five things that give you comfort. Do one of those things today

  55. Plan for when you might have difficulties during the holidays. Write it down. Follow as much of it as you can

  56. Ask for what you need

  57. Plan for something to reward you after the holidays

  58. Create a special photo book of your loved one

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