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LivingHealthWhat if it’s NOT the most wonderful time of the year?

What if it’s NOT the most wonderful time of the year?

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

This time of year has many joyous, merry times, gatherings, and events. No matter where you go, in every store, on television, radio, social media, or talking to friends and family, it’s all you hear, see and smell. But for many people, it may feel anything but joyous. If you or a loved one is managing a serious or palliative illness, or are bereaved, it will be different, no matter what it is that you normally celebrate.

If you are trying to simply “get through” this time of year, remember…

  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Do what feels right; its ok to feel happiness or sadness.
  • There is no right or wrong way to feel, it’s your way.
  • Allow space for yourself, you may feel all different emotions.
  • Acknowledge others may be grieving and processing differently than you.
  • Recognize that some people are trying to help and may not know how to.
  • Do what feels right for you and your person; you don’t have to do it all.
  • If you prefer not to talk, and can afford it, get out of town. Stay at a local hotel for a couple of nights, take a trip, or simply hunker down at home and pretend it’s just another day. There are no rules!

Honouring a loved one can look like…

  • Sharing a prayer or poem
  • Lighting a candle
  • Setting a place for them at the table
  • Having a non-traditional meal or creating their favourite dishes
  • Sharing stories
  • Creating gifts made with something significant — i.e., a pillow cover made out of your person’s shirt, or an ornament with something they wrote on it.
  • There are many ways to honour our loved ones; either alone or with family and friends.

How to create a perfect holiday…

  • DON’T!
  • Try not to add extra pressures
  • It’s ok to ask for or accept help
  • Creating memories and being together is a gift, especially if it may be the last.
  • Don’t be afraid of tears…or laughter.
  • Connect with the important people in your life

Supporting someone who is struggling can look like…

  • Reach out to people who have had any of these things happen recently.
  • Understand that for many, it’s not just the first Christmas that may be hard…it may be every Christmas for the rest of their lives. Respect that.
  • Try not to talk about all of your happy plans too much. Friendships don’t always need to be “even.”
  • Listen. Let them be sad…don’t try to jolly them up, and above all don’t tell them to “do it for the kids” or anything like that.
  • If your friend is grieving, don’t be afraid to say their person’s name! Talking about them can be a gift. (But do be sensitive to their response. If they change the subject, follow their lead.)
  • Be aware that some losses are very complicated. Always follow the grieving person’s lead.
  • However they choose to deal with the season, show your support.
  • If you plan to give them a gift, consider something that offers self-care — a massage or spa day, take-out meals, or an event such as a musical performance or dinner date with you.

The internet is full of hints and tips that may speak to your particular situation. Whether it’s dealing with illness, or the loss of a grandparent, parent, spouse, sibling, child, or friend, these can all result in very different responses.

We at HHNL wish you peace, and hope you will be surrounded by love and support.

You can reach out to us by email at info@hhnl.ca, by phone at 613-406-7020 or 343-262-0902

A few resources:

The Warmline

Open 4 pm to midnight 7 days a week. For anyone feeling lonely, isolated, depressed or in need of a friendly ear.

Mental Health Crisis Support hotline for Lanark, Leeds and Grenville

24 hours 7 days a week




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