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Special Times

No matter how well prepared you try to be, you may find yourself blindsided with grief, particularly during the first year without your loved one. Holidays and anniversaries may be difficult. Think about altering traditions if they are too painful in the absence of a family member.

Here are some tips to cope

1. Decide what you can handle comfortably and then let your family and friends know. Consider whether you'd like to talk about the death openly; whether you'd prefer someone else take on traditional tasks, such as the family dinner; or whether you will stay home for the holidays or get away to someplace new.

2. Change can make things less painful; give yourself permission to do things differently. For example, let others take over holiday tasks, attend a new place of worship, celebrate in someone else's home or have dinner at a different time.

3. Find comfort in helping others. Donate the money you would have spent on the deceased's gifts to a charity -- consider a cause important to your loved one -- or adopt a needy family for the holidays.

Give yourself permission to do things differently.

4. Don't wear yourself out. Plan shopping trips ahead of time or consider online or catalog shopping. If an annual activity sounds overwhelming, skip it.

5. Find a way to honor the person who has died. Consider ways you can memorialize your loved one to acknowledge their absence. For example, display a photo, light a special candle, or make a toast.

6. Allow yourself to cry. Holidays bring up many emotions happy and sad. Don't push them aside. Pamper yourself. Be determined to take time out to do something that's comforting to you.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning Annual Celebrations:
  • Have I talked about this with other family members?
  • Do I really enjoy doing this?
  • Do other family members really enjoy this?
  • Is this a task that can be shared by others?
  • What can I give up or do differently this year to make it easier?

This guide was made possible by financial support.