The holidays may be a cheerful time for most people, but for many others they can be a painful reminder of a lost loved one.
According to mental health experts, individuals and families struggling with grief can find that grief is all the more intense and quite difficult to cope with during the holidays.
The grief-stricken can and should find comfort in honoring the memory of the lost loved one by trying to set aside a specific time to remember the person they lost. Simply ignoring the fact that a beloved father, mother, child or grandparent is not at the holiday gathering does more harm than good.
"Don't leave the loss unspoken," said a noted college professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "This is an injustice to the memory of the person who has been lost and it sets up the situation of the proverbial elephant in the room. Everyone knows it's there. Everyone can feel it. Their loss is a palpable presence."
On the other hand, the experts say making grief a continual theme of the holiday also is not healthy. You don't want to make the holidays a constant memorial to the lost person, but some types of memorial discussions are appropriate. However, they should not take over the holiday event.
We all know no one grieves the same way. Some openly share their sadness, while others keep it to themselves and try to return to the routine of their lives. Both can be normal ways to grieve.
However, persistent grief can become serious depression, which should be treated by mental health professionals.
And, that help is available for people with depression from such mental health professionals, employee assistance programs, hospices and churches.
All in all, the experts say feel the grief, find the time to properly acknowledge the memory of the missing loved one, and then move on and enjoy the holidays.