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Hospice offers tips for handling grief during the holidays

The holidays are quickly approaching, and while many people look forward to yearly gatherings with family and friends and the good feelings associated with the season, some people dread the holidays.

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The holiday season can be especially difficult for those who have lost a loved one. The Lights of Love trees on the lawn of the Carnegie Building are one way to express grief and honor the memory of somone. (Examiner Photo/Joel E. Mast)

For those who have lost a loved one during the past year, the holidays may add to their grief, according to Anne Shelley, CEO of Universal Home Health and Hospice Care, 701 S. Main St.

Often, friends and family members of those affected by a loss are unsure how to act or what to say to support their grieving loved one during the holidays.  

Hospices are valuable community resources that often help people who are struggling with grief and loss, providing bereavement support to the families they serve.

“In general, the best way to help those who are grieving during the holidays is to let them know you care. They need to be remembered, and they need to know their loved ones are remembered, too,” Ms. Shelley said.

Hospice grief counselors emphasize that friends and family members should never be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, because making an effort and showing concern will be appreciated.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization offers some practical tips from hospice professionals:

• Be supportive of the way the person chooses to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may choose to change their rituals. Remember, there is no right way or wrong way to handle the holidays.

• Offer to help the person with baking and/or cleaning. Both tasks can be overwhelming when someone is experiencing acute grief.

• Offer to help a grieving friend or family member decorate for the holidays.

• Offer to help with holiday shopping or give your loved one catalogs or suggest online shopping sites that may be helpful.

• Help a loved one prepare and mail holiday cards.

• Invite the person to attend a religious service with you and your family, or to your home for the holidays.

• Ask the person if he or she is interested in volunteering with you during the holiday season. Doing something for someone else, such as helping at soup kitchens or working with children, may help someone struggling with grief to feel better about the holidays.

• Donate a gift or money in memory of the person’s loved one. Remind the person that his or her special person is not forgotten.

• Never tell someone that he or she should be “over it.”  Instead, give the person hope that, eventually, he or she will enjoy the holidays again.

• If he or she wants to talk about the deceased loved one or feelings associated with the loss, listen. Active listening from friends is an important step to helping those grieving to heal. Don’t worry about being conversational, just listen.

• Remind the person you are thinking of him or her and the loved one who died. Cards, phone calls and visits are great ways to stay in touch.

Hospice is a philosophy of care for patients with life-limiting illnesses. A team of professionals and trained volunteers offer care and comfort to patients and their families when a cure is no longer possible. Fully covered by Medicare and most insurance companies, hospice services are available at home or in a facility such as a nursing home.

For more information about grief and loss, visit www.caringinfo.org or call the HelpLine at 800-658-8898. Contact the local Universal Home Health and Hospice Care, Inc. at 593-1605.

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