Published on December 20, 2019

Lit candle

Holidays aren't always the most wonderful time of the year

by Robin Colerick-Shinkle, LMH Health

During the holidays, you may turn on the radio and hear the refrain, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Those experiencing grief and loss may feel like replacing the word “wonderful” with “difficult.” 

Grief has a profound effect at different times of the year, often most powerfully during the holiday season. Many people celebrate holidays with family and friends but for those who have lost a loved one, their absence may be keenly felt. Whether you have lost a loved one or know someone who has, use these tips to help navigate the season. 

  • Be kind to yourself. We sometimes readily offer kindness to others but when it comes to ourselves, we can become our harshest critics. Take time to honor your feelings and listen to what your body is telling you it needs. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay not to do all the things you used to do. Being kind means to love yourself, recognize that your heart has been broken and it needs time to heal.  

LMH Health can help

LMH Health offers a 12-week Grief Support Group beginning January 16, 2020. Call Chaplain Robin for more information at 785-505-3140.

If you find that your grief becomes so unbearable that you are thinking about hurting yourself, please reach out to Headquarters Counseling Center at 785-841-2345, contact your local police or visit the LMH Health Emergency Department.

  • Be kind to those who are grieving. Don’t push them to do something they don’t want to do - stay away from the guilt treatment. Recognize that they are hurting and think about how you can love them, rather than forcing them to be something they aren’t right now. Remember that they may not want to do the same things they’ve always done, so be flexible. 
  • Think about your loved one. It’s okay to talk about and remember them. If a friend is grieving, it’s okay to mention their loved one too. It can be more upsetting for a grieving person to feel their loved one is forgotten.  
  • Honor your loved one during the holiday season. Make a donation in your loved one’s name to an organization they supported. Do something different in honor of your loved ones, perhaps by doing something they would have loved to do. Bring a candle with you to family gatherings or buy a poinsettia in their honor. 
  • Consult a healthcare professional if you have symptoms of depression or aren’t coping well. Community resources, funeral homes or faith communities offer grief or loss counseling and support groups. 

Many people who lose a loved one may approach the holiday season with a sense of trepidation, knowing that things have changed. Just as people care for their physical pain, grief is an emotional pain that needs rest, time, love, care, accommodations, space, medicines, resources, friendship and work. 

The greatest gift you can give to someone who is grieving is time and your presence. Listen to their stories, memories and the little things. Put phones away and enjoy time together. The power of your presence might be surprising. 


Robin Colerick-Shinkle is the spiritual care manager at LMH Health, which is a major sponsor of Lawrence Journal World’s health section.


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Holidays aren't always the most wonderful time of the year