Grief and Special Days

Approaching your first Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, birthday, anniversary and other emotional markers of time without your loved one can be accompanied by a feeling of dread, anxiety, and loneliness along with the to-be-expected grief and loss.


I think most of us understand why anybody would want to avoid facing the discomfort of loss. Most of us have probably tried and failed in that endeavor. Trying to avoid or stop thinking about loss paradoxically creates more distress and does nothing for adjustment to loss and hurt. Experience in treating stress, anxiety disorders including PTSD and OCD with cognitive behavior therapy provides rationale for teaching coping with loss and aids the process of grieving.


A blog can’t begin to address the breadth and scope of this subject, but there are a few principles one might consider:

  • Make a plan to do something. Behavioral activation contributes to recovery from just about any kind of distress;
  • Recognize when you do something that has been enjoyable, allow yourself to enjoy the experience without guilt (your loved one would probably want that for you);
  • Remember your loved one. You might consider making a list of shared experiences to remember or talk about with friends or family as part of the day’s activities;
  • It’s okay to feel sad and cry. Crying can release some stress and emotion;
  • Set the expectation bar low for yourself and be patient with yourself and others;
  • Move and breathe. A little exercise can change a mental state fairly quickly and last a while.


Making a plan and keeping some routines can help you feel more control and aid your grief recovery over time. If you are struggling with grief from loss of a loved one, many hospice organizations provide helpful group experiences. Professional counseling can also bring nonjudgmental guidance, structure and a place to share thoughts and feelings you might be reluctant share with others.


David Barnhart, EdD

Licensed Counselor


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