Navigating Springtime Holidays in a Time of Loss

Regardless of religious beliefs or background, a long weekend in April is a cause for celebration.  More families and friends are now able to gather to share a meal, and enjoy the company of others after a long winter.  But for people who have lost a loved one recently, or are reminded of their time of loss, holidays can be emotionally difficult. 

Among adults over the age of 75, 58 percent of women who had ever married and 28 percent of men have experienced the death of a spouse in their lifetime, according to the United States Census Bureau.  Although some older adults may remarry after the loss of a spouse through death or divorce, many seniors remain single. 

Widowhood is not only an emotional blow to a remaining spouse, for many seniors the death of a life partner can also cause economic and physical difficulties.  Millions of people have lost a close family member to COVID-19 and many families are grieving the sudden loss of a loved one.  These events can contribute to an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and other health problems. 

Any major holiday after the loss of a close loved one can be challenging for mourners.  Faith can be a comfort for some and self-care is especially important in times of loss.  Scaling down celebrations, participating in distracting activities, or taking time for rest are just a few coping tactics to get through a difficult time.  Anticipating changes and accepting new traditions can be healing – perhaps planting a memory garden or tree would help console families in their grief. 

The pleasant distraction of decorating easter eggs, playing games, or baking cookies with grandchildren can also help lift the spirits of grieving family members.  Talking with friends and family about loss and sharing memories can be a great support, but anyone experiencing a deep depression or unhealthy thoughts should seek the help of a mental health professional.  

Read more about grief, and the six needs of mourning by following this link to a recent After Talk blog post.