The words to the song “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” don’t ring true for everyone. If you’ve recently suffered the loss of a loved one, the holidays can bring sadness and dread to an otherwise cheerful season.

As a funeral service veteran, I’ve been a part of the grieving process of thousands of families. Many people fail to acknowledge their sadness. Even people who have suffered other losses such as the loss of a job or divorce are grieving. In the “Role of Death & Bereavement in Society” course I teach at Arapahoe Community College, I teach my students to understand the similarities of different types of losses. All of them are significant and warrant the grieving process.

If you’re facing the holiday season with a recent loss, I encourage you to allow yourself to feel sad and recognize the significance of the loss. It’s common for individuals to try and trudge through, often doing too much and feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities associated with the holidays. Also, recognize that you’re not alone. You may think you are the only one feeling this way, but you’re not.

At the forefront of the season are family rituals and traditions that are meaningful. Memories of a loved one’s role in special traditions shouldn’t go unacknowledged. If Dad always made the Thanksgiving dinner toast, pass the torch to someone new who will honor him and keep the tradition alive.

Even if you haven’t experienced a loss directly, you may wonder how to help someone who has. One of the most important things you can do is to lend a non-judgmental ear. Allow your friend or relative to express their sadness without judgment. It’s not okay to say things like “cheer up.” Grieving people can’t cheer up, and they need friends who understand that. There are many ways to reach out and show you care. Send a “thinking of you” holiday card and acknowledge the loved one who has passed by name. Reaching out with a phone call, or dinner invitation can also help diminish those feelings of isolation.

Honoring a lost loved one through an online support network is another way to deal with grief privately. The computer provides anonymity to share thoughts and feelings. Families can also set up memorials online sharing photos, videos and stories.

Author's Bio: 

Martha Thayer, MA, CFSP, is the founder of End of Life Insights LLC, a Colorado-based company that educates consumers and professionals about issues related to end-of-life care. She has 20 years experience in the funeral services industry and is chair of the nationally known Mortuary Science Program at Arapahoe Community College. Thayer is the author of End of Life Insights Colorado, the only handbook on end-of-life care in Colorado, providing expert guidance to consumers facing decisions on end-of-life care.

Martha is active in the Colorado state legislature as an advocate for end-of-life issues and has been called upon as an expert witness in legal cases related to end-of-life care.

Martha’s company offers resources and services to both consumers and professionals, including professional development courses that provide continuing education credits.

Martha’s website, End of Life Insights features resources for consumers including weekly blogs, downloadable brochures, and information and detailed instructions on setting up a credible online memorial for lost loved ones.

Martha has been interviewed and quoted in local and national media including the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Colorado Public Radio, Westword, The Denver Post and others.