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From Kansas State University:

While many see the holidays as a happy and festive time, the season can be one of the most difficult times of the year for people grieving for a recently lost loved one or struggling with depression.

It’s not unusual to have an increase in the number of people experiencing some form of depression during the holiday season, said Stephanie Wick, a Kansas State University instructor in family studies and human services and a licensed marriage and family therapist.

In addition to the holidays, the winter days are shorter, the weather is colder, and people spend more time indoors — all of which can contribute to a difficult time of year. The holidays also are perceived as a joyful time filled with family, tradition, making memories and enjoying each other’s company, Wick said.

“When you’ve lost a loved one and you’re coming up on the holiday season, there’s a giant void,” Wick said. “It’s a reminder that all these other families are celebrating this time together and enjoying their time together, but we’ve lost this person. We can’t enjoy this time because we’re not complete, we’re not whole.”

Wick says there are ways for people grieving, along with their friends and relatives, to face the holidays during a difficult time. Every person goes through grief differently, Wick said, and will approach the holidays in diverse ways.

“I think one of the most important things to do as an outsider watching a person who is grieving is to respect their healing process,” Wick said. “If they decide they don’t want to put up a Christmas tree, have a meal or open presents, as an outsider it’s important to respect that because it’s necessary for that person or that family’s process of trying to get through this holiday season.”

Sometimes simply engaging in conversations about the person who died can help the grieving process, if the grieving person is willing to talk. Telling funny stories or sharing memories can be a way to keep the person’s memory alive.

But there are certain behaviors a grieving person can exhibit that might be signals for concern, Wick said. Such behaviors can include any indication of major depression with no effort to reach out for help; refusing any help that is offered; or any type of suicidal thoughts or plans.

After someone has died it can be very difficult for a family to resume old holiday traditions. Wick suggests creating new traditions instead of trying to continue old ones during a time of grief.

“Families can do something they haven’t done before or go somewhere else for the holidays,” Wick said. “It’s a way of marking the new phase, but also preserving the old traditions and the memory of those traditions with the person who has died.”

It’s important to remember that the grieving process takes time, Wick said.

“It gets easier with time,” she said. “The first holiday is the hardest. For many people it’s a process of surviving, just getting through one holiday at a time.”



November 20th is National Survivors of Suicide Day. Click on this link for more information.

If you have lost someone to suicide, the first thing you should know is that you are not alone. Each year over 33,000 people in the United States die by suicide — the devastated family and friends they leave behind are known as “survivors.” There are millions of survivors who, like you, are trying to cope with this heartbreaking loss.

Survivors often experience a wide range of grief reactions, including some or all of the following:

  • Shock is a common immediate reaction. You may feel numb or disoriented, and may have trouble concentrating.
  • Symptoms of depression, including disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, intense sadness, and lack of energy.
  • Anger towards the deceased, another family member, a therapist, or yourself.
  • Relief, particularly if the suicide followed a long and difficult mental illness.
  • Guilt, including thinking, “If only I had….”
  • These feelings usually diminish over time, as you develop your ability to cope and begin to heal.

What Do I Do Now?

  • Some survivors struggle with what to tell other people. Although you should make whatever decision feels right to you, most survivors have found it best to simply acknowledge that their loved one died by suicide.
  • You may find that it helps to reach out to family and friends. Because some people may not know what to say, you may need to take the initiative to talk about the suicide, share your feelings, and ask for their help.
  • Even though it may seem difficult, maintaining contact with other people is especially important during the stress-filled months after a loved one’s suicide.
  • Keep in mind that each person grieves in his or her own way. Some people visit the cemetery weekly; others find it too painful to go at all.
  • Each person also grieves at his or her own pace; there is no set rhythm or timeline for healing.
  • Anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays may be especially difficult, so you might want to think about whether to continue old traditions or create some new ones. You may also experience unexpected waves of sadness; these are a normal part of the grieving process.
  • Children experience many of the feelings of adult grief, and are particularly vulnerable to feeling abandoned and guilty. Reassure them that the death was not their fault. Listen to their questions, and try to offer honest, straightforward, age-appropriate answers.
  • Some survivors find comfort in community, religious, or spiritual activities, including talking to a trusted member of the clergy.
  • Be kind to yourself. When you feel ready, begin to go on with your life. Eventually starting to enjoy life again is not a betrayal of your loved one, but rather a sign that you’ve begun to heal.

Excerpted from Surviving Suicide Loss: A Resource and Healing Guide.


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