COVID-19 Information

We're here to keep you informed, and care for your health. MultiCare facilities are open for all patients. COVID-19 Resource Center

< >

Living with grief through the holidays

Posted on Nov. 7, 2019 ( comments)
Holiday candles

Family, togetherness and cheerfulness are key themes for the holiday season, often emphasized by displays of holiday spirit throughout the community. But for some people, this time of year is shadowed by difficult feelings. For those who have recently lost a loved one, grief can be especially strong during the holidays.

"The holidays are a time that's really fraught with meaning for people and can leave them broken-hearted because it's hard to get away from it all," says Luella Loudenback, Bereavement Coordinator for MultiCare Hospice.

Even though grief is a universal experience, not everyone grieves in the same way. As a result, navigating the holidays during times of grief and loss can be complex, says Loudenback.

That's why MultiCare presents a free annual seminar called Living with Grief through the Holidays.

Healing through shared experience

The seminar is a joint collaboration between MultiCare Hospice, Kaiser Permanente and CHI Franciscan Health. It's held in November at two different locations, one in Pierce County and the other in Kitsap County. It offers:

  • Practical information and ideas about how to care for yourself and your family during the holidays and other meaningful times
  • Ideas for taking care of yourself and your family during special and difficult times of the year
  • The opportunity to learn new ways to celebrate and remember the life of your loved one
  • Community resource information related to grief and loss support

At each seminar, a panel of community members shares their individual experiences of loss, as well as how they found strength and healing through the grieving process. Guest musicians perform special reflective music, and participants can take part in rituals to memorialize loved ones if they wish.

Focus on self care

Self care is essential when grieving, says Loudenback.

"We teach people to trust themselves and pay attention to their own needs,” she says. “They get to decide what works for them and what they need to be comforted.”

At the seminar, facilitators offer self-care guidance such as:

Give yourself permission to do only what you can. Pay close attention to whether you need to be with people or in solitude, and whether you'd prefer to continue with or change your family holiday rituals.

"We sometimes think that grief should behave a certain way, within a certain timeline, and that people should be over it at a certain point,” Loudenback says. “We consider the possibility that no one else knows as well as you do."

Have a plan. If you do intend to socialize over the holidays, consider waiting until the day of the event to commit and driving your own car there. That way, you'll have an out if you don't feel up for the event or need to leave early.

Take care of the basics. Be sure you're eating well, drinking plenty of fluids, getting enough restorative sleep, and moving your body — even if it's just walking around the block or stretching. Sleeping well can help you better tolerate the spectrum of emotions that come along with grief.

Stronger together

Participants appreciate the seminar because it gives them a place to go to be around other people who are sharing a similar experience, says Loudenback.

For one of the seminar activities, participants perform a community ritual in which they layered sand in a tall glass container, with each layer representing a different person's grief.

"People have their own individual experiences of grief, but here they are able to come together to find community, support and guidance around being in loss over the holidays," Loudenback says.

Event details: Pierce County

What: Living with Grief through the Holidays seminar

When: Saturday, Nov. 9, 1–3pm with registration beginning at 12:45pm

Where: New Horizon Church, 5600 Valley Ave E, Fife

For more information or to register, contact MultiCare Bereavement Program at 253-301-6400.

Event details: Kitsap County

What: Living with Grief through the Holidays seminar

When: Saturday, Nov. 23, 1–3pm with registration beginning at 12:45pm

Where: Summit Avenue Presbyterian Church, 403 S Summit Ave, Bremerton

For more information or to register, contact Wayne Streutker at 253-301-6400.

Both events are free of charge, but donations are appreciated. Family and friends are welcome.

View all articles