The holiday season may not be merry and bright for everyone, especially
those who have experienced the recent loss of a loved one, or if this
is the first Christmas without a family member or friend.
Doyle Patterson, senior
Palliative Medicine at
Covenant Medical Center, says grief includes much more than losing someone you love. He defines
grief as an expression of emotions when you suffer almost any kind of
a loss. It can be the loss of a marriage, loss of a job, or loss of your
health and mobility as you have known it.
But around the holidays, loss of a loved one is usually how most people
think of grief and grieving.
“I encourage those who’ve had a loss to not be afraid to talk
about their loved one, and they say ‘I don’t want to because
I'm going to cry.’ And tears are ok,” Patterson said.
“They’re very normal, they’re natural.”
Patterson says it’s important to deal with your grief and loss, but
he said it can take some time.
"I would encourage people who are grieving to be patient with themselves,
to take care of themselves and to understand their emotions are real,
their feelings are real, their tears are real and OK, and even laughter
is OK,” Patterson said.
He says family gatherings are about celebrating the people in that family,
and remembering them. But, he said we all need to remember that the person
who is grieving is going through something they may have never experienced
before, and they will move on from this on their own timetable.
“Grief affects every part of our life. Our social, physical, emotion,
spiritual, all of it. And it’s true that the holidays will not be
the same after the death of a person or a major change in life, but in
time, laughter and joy will return.”
It might be tempting to step back and let the person who is grieving have
more space and time alone. But one of the things you don’t want
to do is for them to feel isolated. Find creative ways to get them involved.
Say to yourself, “They’re coming with us, we’re going
to help them participate and enjoy the best they can.”
He recommends finding someone to talk to when you’re dealing with
grief. He says support can come from professional help, a grief support
group, or just someone you know you can talk to.
“At the holiday times, if you’re experiencing grief, don’t
be alone,” Patterson reiterated. “Seek people out, be with
them, people you know will listen to you.”
He said it’s important to grieve because doing that can help your
“If you don’t, your emotions become internalized, they get
stuffed,” he said. “At some point it will come out, and it
will usually come out in a negative way, exploding at friends and family
in anger, and those types of things, so it’s healthier to have someone
walk with you who understands as you walk through it, and there’s
no exact time frame for that healing.”