Venice Family Clinic offers four tips for people who are grieving to cope with the winter holiday season

November 17, 2021

With Thanksgiving marking the start of the winter holiday season, Iliniza (Nisa) Baty, Venice Family Clinic’s director of behavioral health, today offered four tips for helping yourself and others who are grieving the loss of loved ones, especially during this time of year when families and friends traditionally celebrate together.

“For many people, this holiday season may be the first spent without a loved one who died this year,” said Baty. “COVID-19 has taken so many lives and has disrupted the traditional memorial and grief processes. The enormity of grief, isolation and pandemic stress compounds the difficulty of loss and can be especially poignant during the holiday season.”

She recommends the following tips to help cope during the holidays:

  1. Allow the range of emotions: When grieving during the holidays, emotions often move fluidly along a spectrum, and the best thing to do is to allow this. Understand and embrace the normalcy of tears, the physical impact of grief, the vacillation between the sense of being emotionally flooded at times and “okay” at times, as well as the numbness and brain fog that may descend on you. If you are feeling happy, allow this! It does not mean you are not missing your loved one.

For children, adults who can show tears and laughter give the message that having a range of emotions is okay, and that grieving is safe. In addition, sharing family values about life and death with children, discussing how everyone is coping and helping children find ways to memorialize the person who died with a drawing, memory or memento will help them process their grief.

  1. Delegate: Family and friends often want to be helpful, but the question, “what can I do to help?” can be overwhelming to the grieving person. Having a point person assign others different tasks or coordinate a shared document where others can sign up for different tasks will ensure people get the help that is needed, whether it’s hosting playdates or delivering a meal.
  2. Create a new ritual: After losing a loved one, it’s healthy to share and talk about them. Start a new ritual by creating an altar or photo tribute to the person who died or a time to share stories about that person. Other meaningful ways to remember a loved one include wearing a piece of jewelry, holding articles of clothing and sharing photos and mementos that can be symbolic connections.
  3. Be gentle: When grieving, we must give ourselves permission to have a messy home, to sleep more or less, etc. Others can help by encouraging loved ones to take a walk, sit in the sunshine or just be with them. They can also help by recognizing that grief and mourning do not have a time limit, and that one will not be “done” with grief. The pain eases, but it can resurface in a very raw way at unexpected moments and at birthday, holidays, etc.

“This holiday season, many of us will be learning how to move forward in a world where our loved ones are absent, how to manage tasks that may have been that person’s responsibility and so many other important skills,” said Baty. “Part of this process is finding meaning in life in light of this death and to recognize that it is okay to feel all the emotions, including sadness, happiness, love, anger, confusion, joy and hope.”

For more information and to become a patient of Venice Family Clinic, please call (310) 392-8636. L.A. County also offers help for people during the holidays. Its Peer Resource Center will be holding online support groups on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day for those seeking connection and support over the holidays.  View this flyer for more information and to participate. For additional mental health support and resources, L.A. County has a 24/7 Help Line at (800) 854-7771.