Healthy Holidays: Managing Stress & Grief

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By Gary Roe

Ah, the holidays. Halls, houses, and lawns are decked with festive decorations. Kitchens are filled with delightful, savory aromas. The air is laced with laughter, familiar music, and the tinkling of Salvation Army bells. The holiday spirit is everywhere.

But underneath the bright lights, smiles, and cheerful greetings lurks the unseen warehouse of holiday expectations. There is a need to top last year, and the year before that. Bigger, better, more colorful, and more delicious. This holiday must be more “wow,” better than ever before, the best ever.

Everyone has expectations and ideas of how this should happen. Even our culture has expectations. Have the appropriate holiday spirit. Engage in holiday cheer. Be happy, happy, happy!

What if you’re not happy? What if you’re actually sad? What if you’ve lost a loved one, or several? What if you’re depressed?

Amidst the smiling faces, there are some wounded hearts. Holidays are naturally times for reminiscing. Memories of what you once had swims before your eyes. You become hyper-aware of who and what you’ve lost.

Grief is a lonely thing. Surrounded by gaiety, a broken heart can feel more alone and isolated than ever. How do you deal with this? Here are a few suggestions:

Manage expectations.
Instead of plowing ahead as usual, pause and take a good look at your expectations and plans. What do you want this holiday to be like? What’s honestly possible and realistic? What do you really want to do, how, when, and with whom?

Focus on a few things.
What’s most important? What must happen? Let those close to you know you’re doing things differently this year. This will help manage their expectations, too.

Make a plan to remember loved ones who’ve passed on.
Acknowledge the elephant in the room. Bring up their name and talk about them. Invite others to share a special memory or what they miss most. Holidays are a wonderful time to honor the special people who now reside in your heart.

Be kind to yourself.
You can do more than merely survive. Take your heart and health seriously. Pace yourself. Rest. Love yourself well through this time and that love will spill over onto family and friends.

For more info on making these holidays special and meaningful, join Hospice Brazos Valley for a free event, “Handling Holiday Grief,” on Saturday, Dec. 3, at 10am at the Brew Coffeehouse on Harvey Road in College Station. Refreshments will be provided. RSVP for this free event at (979) 821-2266 or at

Bestselling, award-winning author Gary Roe is a Hospice Brazos Valley chaplain and grief specialist. His book “Surviving the Holidays Without You” is a 2016 Book Excellence Award Finalist. Visit, call (979) 821-2266, or email