The holidays are often thought of as joyful time of the year in Southwest Florida, with parties, and of course, special times with our families.

However, as Hope Hospice President and CEO Samira K. Beckwith points out, “The holidays can be difficult for people coping with the loss of a loved one. The season may be full of reminders of recent loss in our lives. During the holidays, even feelings of grief from years past can seem fresh.”

Beckwith says thoughtful preparation can help to alleviate the grief and stress. The Pathways of Hope Counseling Center helps families who have experienced loss throughout the year. Hope’s professional counselors offer special suggestions for the holidays.

Those who have recently lost a loved one, as well as their friends, should not try to ignore the loss and pretend that nothing has changed. Recognize that the holidays won’t be the same. Expecting everything to be the same might lead to disappointment.

During the holidays, allow yourself, or your grieving friend, permission to do what feels right. At a time of year when many people feel compelled to follow holiday traditions, doing something different can be helpful. For example, you may want to create a new tradition, such as lighting a special candle in remembrance, or donating to a favorite charity in the name of the loved one.

You may want to do something special for others, and when they thank you, you can explain how you did it to honor your loved one.

Avoid additional stress. Decide what you really want to do over the holiday season and give yourself permission to avoid things you don’t want to do.

Plan for the approaching holidays. Recognize that the holidays might be a difficult time for you.

The stress may affect you emotionally, mentally, and physically. This is a normal reaction.

Be careful not to isolate yourself. It’s important to take quiet, reflective time for yourself but also allow yourself the support offered from friends and family.

The holidays may affect other family members. Talk over your plans and share your feelings.

Respect other’s choices and needs.

For more information, call 800-835-1673.