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Coping With Grief During The Holidays

December 2, 2013, 6:15 PM by Brittany Larson

Coping With Grief During The Holidays

While this is the happiest time of year for many people, it can be a very difficult time for those who have lost loved ones.

Even those who have lost a close family member or friend years ago can really struggle with grief during the holiday season.

Despite the usual cheer of the holidays, Renee Newville can't help but feel paralyzed by sadness.

"While everybody wants to be jolly and happy during Christmas you are stuck in this hole, this darkness," Renee Newville said.

Renee and her husband, Tim, lost their son in 2009. Twelve-year-old Tyler Newville died from complications of the flu.

"Having lost him on the 20th of November that was right before Thanksgiving, right before the Holidays," Newville said.

As a sixth-grader at Patrick Henry Middle School, Tyler loved to joke around and he was involved in South Dakota junior football. His absence is felt most, they say, at Christmas time.

"It really hurts. You actually get frustrated that the world is going on and you are at a stopping point at this point," Newville said.

This time of year can be even harder to cope with grief largely because there are so many family traditions around the holidays. Experts say there are ways to avoid a blue Christmas. Planning ahead is key.

"People who navigate the holidays the most successful have planned ahead and thought about how they're going to handle things," Sanford Hospice Social Worker Lea Melady said.

Relaxation exercises can help, especially taking slow, calming breaths. It's also important to allow time to grieve in the midst of the hectic holiday rush.

"What are you going to do?  Are you going to decorate this year?  Are you going to send out cards?  Are you going to accept invitations? How do you want to spend the holidays?" Melady said.

Other suggestions include celebrating a lost loved one by making a charitable donation in their honor. Sharing memories is also a healthy way to keep a loved one's memory. That's exactly what Newville and her husband do every year.

"Not celebrate his death but we remember him that day. My husband and I both take off work so we can spend the day with family and friends," Newville said.

Health officials say while there is no right or wrong way to celebrate holidays if you're grieving, those helpful tips may put a bit more cheer in what promises to be a bittersweet holiday season.

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