GRATITUDE: 5 Tips for Surviving the Holidays When You’re Missing Loved Ones

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Those of you who know me personally, know that my first husband died of a heart attack in 2006. My grief was a long process that did get easier to bear with time. Cheryl’s tips are an excellent path to follow. My heart goes out to you, if you are grieving this holiday season — know that you are not alone.

And for those of us who are missing our loved ones because they are far away or quarantined — pick up the phone, be the first one to call — don’t wait for someone else to call you. There are so many ways that we can stay in touch and be grateful for each other. Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at LKNConnect. — EH Stafford, Managing Editor


Significant Days

Holidays tend to be the most difficult times to get through during the year. There are birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s to name a few. I call these Calendar Event Triggers — dates that were significant to you and your loved one who is no longer present. You may approach these events with anxiety or dread knowing that they will never be the same again, and you are right. The person you shared the holidays (and your life) with is gone and you are learning a new way of being, often struggling to just get through the day.


“Time has no boundaries in matters of the heart.”


It does not matter that your loss occurred this month, this year or five years ago

I found this out during my journey through the grief and loss of my husband as I was writing my book, Good Grief. It is now six years later and I still miss him more during the holidays. However, I have learned that there are ways to make holidays less stressful.


Give yourself time to heal

It takes time to work through grief and loss. Here are 5 tips that helped me along my journey and I hope they help you too.

TIP #1: Be patient

 There will be ups and downs, progress and setbacks, on this healing journey. Laughing is good as solace to the soul, eases the tension and lightens the mood. Crying is good and acknowledges the loss, validating your grief. A Native American Proverb says it all, “The soul would have no rainbows if the eyes had no tears.”


TIP #2: Be strong

Use your resources and reach out to family and friends to support you. The power of human touch often says more than words. You may even “lean in” to a hug and feel a sigh move up through your body followed by a feeling of relaxation. Hugging is beneficial and may significantly improve your well-being.


TIP #3: Have faith



Move confidently toward the future filled with endless possibilities. You have your own history and pathway for your life. You enjoyed the oneness of another for a time and now you are the survivor and walking a new path. A path that is unknown and one that takes courage. Prayer can be a powerful support on this journey, yet many find this hard at first.





TIP #4: Look back

Express joy and gratitude for what you shared. A Gratitude Jar can be made during the year or for a specific event. For Thanksgiving, you could ask each person to write down on a card or piece of paper what they were grateful for and put them in a jar. The words of gratitude can be general or specific to the one no longer present bearing witness to his/her being with a sense of reverence. Pass the jar around the table and each person can pull one out and read it. Remembrance is an important, comforting, validation of their existence.


Looking forward, your life is a blank canvas that you can choose how and what to paint.

TIP #5: Look forward

Live with joy and gratitude in anticipation of your future. Giving gratitude creates a shift in the mind-body-spirit from a focus on self to that which is outside you in the present. This is important because you are living in the present. Your journey is still ahead, maybe you cannot see through the haze of grief, but you move forward learning a new way of being. But you never forget.

During my journey through grief and loss, I learned a lot. Each day, even now, I am learning: how to go on alone, how to find purpose, how to find peace and joy, how to be brave, how to help others with what I have learned … and to bear witness. I hope these tips help you to get through some of the challenges of the holidays.



Photos courtesy


Cheryl A. Barrett, RN, MSN, NC-BC, is a retired nurse with 30-plus years in a variety of settings: clinical bedside in ICU, staff educator, academic instructor both didactic and clinical, supervisor, home care education, editorial director of a nursing magazine and is a board certified integrative nurse coach.





In 2018 she published Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation, inspired by the death of her husband. She won the American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year, 2018 in the category of Palliative Care and Hospice for her book. She is currently creating a companion workbook for those experiencing grief and loss.


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