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Grief, the holidays and COVID-19: How to cope with it all

Typically, we find comfort in gathering with our family and friends for the holidays. But for people who have lost a loved one, the holidays can amplify their grief. The 2020 holiday season may be especially unique in its impact, as many celebrations, dinners and work festivities that bring us joy will be canceled or adjusted due to COVID-19 safety precautions. These new precautions, including social distancing while visiting, may enhance feelings of grief because people may feel more isolated.

JourneyCare Social Worker Joshua Kaplan-Lyman, LCSW, highlights another reason why grief may be magnified during the holidays.

“We’re ’supposed to be happy’ and it may feel stigmatizing to have complicated feelings of loss during what is supposed to be a happy time,” he says.

Joshua is a licensed social worker and works with patients and families throughout the JourneyCare community to address anticipatory grief. Often, this takes shape through counseling and emotional support.

“The amount of grief a person experiences during the holidays is dependent on the individual,” he explains. “The holidays may amplify someone’s grief due to the reminder of what was lost. Alternatively, the holidays may provide additional support and comfort to those who are grieving, as they may be around family who can provide emotional care.”

To help those in our JourneyCare community living with grief this holiday season, our social workers share these tips:

Stay connected. Connect with family and friends who provide you support and comfort. If you are unable to gather in person due to COVID-19, connect for virtual celebrations and video calls.

Honor and advocate for your emotions. Advocate for your emotional needs. Suppressing your emotional responses to grief may lead to disproportionate emotional outbursts. “I often say that ‘Your grief is your grief,’” Joshua says. “Everybody deals with loss and grief differently and there should not be a timeline or template about how to ‘overcome’ it.”

Find professional help. Reach out to a grief therapist. JourneyCare offers free virtual grief support to hospice families or anyone in our community. To observe social distancing, Grief Counselors are conducting all individual and group grief sessions virtually through phone or Skype. If you or a loved one is interested in registering or learning more, please speak with our Bereavement Care Team today at 844-6-JOURNEY or griefsupport@journeycare.org.