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When Christmas Isn’t Merry: Anticipatory Grief During the Holidays

For people caring for loved ones with terminal illnesses, the holidays can be a particularly difficult time. Because holidays are often a time when families gather together, the idea of an impending loss can be overwhelming, since it forces loved ones to confront the reality of future holidays without the person who is ill. Fortunately, there are ways to manage this kind of anticipatory grief and enjoy the holiday without focusing on things like loss, funeral arrangements, and burial services in San Jose. Face the holiday season with this advice in mind.

Understanding Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief occurs in the period between when a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness and when he or she passes. In this time, family members often must provide care for their loved one while managing their own sadness at the anticipation of saying goodbye. This grief often becomes especially intense during the holidays, since feelings of sadness contrast so sharply with the typical cheer of the season. The notion that this may be a loved one’s last holiday season can make grief feel even more overwhelming.

Seeing Anticipatory Grief in a New Light

As painful as anticipatory grief is, it may be easier to manage if you change the way you look at it. Knowing that a loved one has a terminal illness may fill you with dread, but it can also be a gift. Unlike when someone dies unexpectedly, you know in advance that your loved one is nearing the end of his or her life. This knowledge can help you prepare for the loss and make the most of the time you have left together. It also gives you an opportunity to discuss things like funeral services and choosing a Catholic cemetery.

Managing Anticipatory Grief during the Holidays

During the holidays, face the grief you’re feeling and take advantage of the chance to make the season special together. Involve your loved one in as many of the holiday activities as possible, and build your decorating, meals, and other activities around their preferences. When you are together, spend time reminiscing about past holidays together, so your loved one knows that he or she will never be forgotten.


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