ParentCare » Vol. 36

How to cope with death during the holidays

By Stephen Gemelli

Summer went by too fast. The relaxing vacations days are a sweet memory, and schools are now back in full swing. This means that the holidays are not so far away, and the pressures of planning are about to consume our daily lives.

But for some, the holidays will never be the same. Some will be recalling the loss of a loved one, while others will be caring for a dying loved one. In either case, the holidays will have an entirely new meaning.

How do you act around people in these scenarios? What do you say? It’s simple: Remember that life goes on and the holidays will happen year after year. Yes, for those who lose or lost a loved one or for those who are about to lose someone, this holiday season will be different. But I think one of the worst things we can do as part of someone’s support circle is to clam up and not talk about what is happening around us every day. I have a few suggestions that may help guide you through these days ahead.

Celebrate: Celebrate life, celebrate love and celebrate the holiday. Do you think that the person who died would want you to stop enjoying the precious holidays? The holidays are times when families gather together and support one another. Perhaps the party will be a bit more quiet than usual, but use this time to care and show love and support for those that are hurting.

Commemorate: Commemorate your departed loved one by attending a holiday remembrance service, where you can join others that are having similar feelings as you. Funeral homes, such as ours, have memorial services, as do many hospice organizations. These can be times to pray and remember a wonderful life that was lived and to share your feelings and experiences with others who understand what you are going through.

Communicate: Communicate with each other. It’s human nature to be wary of what to say to someone who is experiencing a loss. But it’s the holidays when those grieving can feel most alone. A simple phone call or note can fill someone’s day with a smile and hope. Remember to include the grieving in your holiday plans. An invitation from friends may be just what the doctor ordered to lift the spirits.

Console: Human touch is an amazing gift. A hug or a gentle smile can let someone know that you care about him or her. Share your gift of a hug with someone during the holidays and let him or her know you are there to listen and help in any way you can.

The holidays are soon to be upon us. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas are holidays that pay tribute and homage to events in the past. Remember to pay tribute to those you’ve lost to death. Remember to pay tribute to those that are the survivors or the caregivers. This holiday season, and those in the future, may never be the same because of a loss, but remembering how much someone enjoyed those holidays may bring a smile to your face or a treasured memory to mind; and perhaps as time goes by, the hurt will diminish and fond memories will help you to carry on and celebrate a wonderful life.

Stephen Gemelli is the general manager and director of Mercadante Funeral Home & Chapel, 370 Plantation St., Worcester. For more information, visit or call (508) 754-0486.

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