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Esther Heerema, MSW

Coping with the Holidays When There's an Empty Place at the Table

By December 9, 2012

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Have you lost a loved one recently? Or has it been many years, but you are especially reminded of your loss during the holidays?

Many of us have lost a family member or close friend, and sometimes that empty spot at the table can be especially painful. If your loss is very recent, you might feel it seemingly everywhere. Grief can be like an oppressive fog that surrounds you and colors your view of the whole world. As time goes on, that fog usually will eventually decrease or dissipate with time and healing. It may emerge, however, at surprising times without rhyme or reason. Often, holidays can trigger those feelings and memories even in the midst of joy and celebration.

If you're in the position of having recently or long ago lost a loved one who had Alzheimer's, another kind of dementia, or some other health challenge, know that you're not alone in your loss. And, while that knowledge doesn't change the situation or take away the pain, sometimes it can help to  remember that others are walking a similar path.

Related Resources

I recently wrote a few articles while contemplating the juxtaposition of grief and loss with the joy and celebrations of the holidays. I hope they're helpful to you.

Practical Suggestions for Observing the Holidays After the Loss of a Loved One: A few thoughts on the challenge of how to navigate the holidays after losing a family member or friend.

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One with Dementia: It's normal to experience a variety of emotions, sometimes all at the same time, after the death of a close relative who had dementia. Here are some thoughts on a few of those feelings, including grief, depression, guilt, exhaustion, lack of purpose and relief.

Coping with Grief and Anger After a Loved One Is Diagnosed with Dementia: This article may help you acknowledge some of the initial grief and anger you might experience after learning that your family member has Alzheimer's disease, and provides a few suggestions on how to cope constructively with those reactions.

Please feel free to visit our forum as well if you'd like to personally connect with others in similar situations.

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