Healthy Thanksgiving: Coping with Family Illness or Loss of a Loved One

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The holidays can be full of joy and anticipation, and in fact, this is often our culture’s expectation. Yet when we’ve lost a loved one, the holidays may instead become a time of sorrow and stress.  Being aware of the change that grief brings and also doing things with intention can be a part of our healing process while we are grieving, especially during the holidays. It is important to be aware that grief needs expression, not repression. Share with others about your grief and where you are emotional; enlist them as support. While grieving, we may be in search of meaning and connection with who our loved one was in our life. Try finding tangible ways to remember your loved one and include the connection with your loved one during the holidays, such as playing certain music that they loved or lighting a candle in their memory at the holiday gathering.

Many people may be sandwiched between caring for children and caring for their parents, which leaves little time to take care of themselves. It is natural to feel frustrated, exhausted, alone or sad. Caregiver stress — the emotional and physical stress of caregiving — is common. The emotional and physical demands involved with caregiving can strain even the most resilient person. It is of utmost importance that caregivers do not neglect their own health while caring for others. Make sure you are getting proper rest, eating well and practicing some method of stress relief, such as reading or walking regularly.

Grief is hard on who we are physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. Caring for ourselves is vital while going through grief, yet often hard to do. You may need to set limits around your time and commitments due to grief. Prioritize what you feel you can and want to do during the holidays. Try to exercise, eat well and get plenty of rest. Do things that bring you joy and laughter, and remember good times with your loved ones.

Cone Health Behavioral Health has an exceptional team of physicians and counselors to work with patients and their families to help restore their wellbeing.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Kim Hutchinson is an advanced practice clinical nurse specialist specializing in behavioral health and addictions at Cone Health. Kim received her Bachelor of Science in primary care nursing from Fairfield University in 1977 and her Master of Science in nursing in child/adolescent mental health from Lehman College in New York in 1982. She received her doctorate in educational psychology from Northern Illinois University College of Education in 1996. She also received a Master of Science in epidemiology and health services research from Wake Forest University in 2003.