It’s regarded as the most wonderful time of the year but the holidays can be such a difficult time for people experiencing grief and bereavement due to the loss of a loved one, especially if it’s the first season without that family member or friend.

Linda Fehr is a volunteer with Palliative Care at Boundary Trails Health Centre, and she says finding special ways to remember loved ones can be extremely helpful during this time.

“You may have traditions that you celebrated as a family and may want to continue with those, and it might be anything from special foods and festivities or it might be an event or it might be something that you did as a family. Often there was something that the family themselves did as a special event that maybe that can carry on and it will be in remembrance of the one that was lost," she says.

Fehr adds that typically the festive season is steeped with tradition and festive activities with an abundance of favourite foods as well as family gatherings. Christmas music is in the air and of course, there’s shopping and decorating.

“We’re reminded constantly of the traditions and the things that we need to do but it takes on a whole different meaning when we’re not able to bring that all together so we probably will work very hard at rebuilding and restructuring our holidays this year. There’s no right or wrong way to handle it. There’s no instruction manual. It’s going to be as unique as the loved one that you lost. So we have to be flexible for the holidays and always have plan B.”

“If you think back to the origin of many of the holiday traditions or the family traditions that you’ve encountered, they usually start because there was a change,” noted Fehr. “Maybe there’s a new baby in the family and we don’t want to upset their schedule so we build around them. Maybe there was an engagement, maybe another family’s agenda to consider and maybe a marriage brought a new family to the table or you travel to visit with them. Maybe there was an illness or accident that required your presence and the agenda changed. Maybe from all the change, there were some very meaningful traditions that were established that you kept.”

This holiday season will also look very different because of COVID-19 especially for those who are remembering a lost loved one.

“2020 has been a year of challenges and losses of all kinds,” Fehr said. “We, through Palliative Care, had wanted to especially reach out to those that have lost a loved one and as we’re now entering into a season that is normally filled with friends and family that’s changed dramatically with the rules and regulations and what we’ve experienced in the last eight months. We find ourselves needing to draw on all of our abilities just to keep the holiday season festive. Grief is a physically and emotionally challenging journey at any time but it does take a lot of care to navigate the holiday season.”

Fehr adds that there’s nothing better than a phone call or sending emails or letters to people who need support during this holiday season.


Written by Ronny Guenther & Clayton Dreger