Should I Send A Holiday Card To Someone Who Is Grieving?

Posted on Dec 10, 2017 in General Grief, Holidays

So you are one of those wonderful people who still sends snail mail holiday greetings. Your cards and list are in front of you, your pen is in hand, and stamps are at your side. Everything is going swimmingly until you come upon a person/couple on your list who has had a loved one die during the past year. Should you send them a card, you wonder?

Good question, and one I have never addressed on 

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Our Holiday Series

Posted on Dec 3, 2017 in Holidays

Again, we are running our holidays series for readers who are newly bereaved. Our hearts are with those of you, as well as those who still struggle to get through the season without a significant loved one.

Holidays (in no particular order):

If you liked this post, please forward! Thanks!

Vicki Panagotacos PhD, FT is a grief counselor and life transition coach.  She writes for her blog,, is founder of, and author of Gaining Traction: Starting Over After the Death of a Life Partner.
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10 Seconds of Silence for Those Who Loved You into Being

Posted on Jan 16, 2016 in Holidays, Uncategorized

It is January 2016.


Another year begins.


The world didn’t end on Jan 1, 2000 as many predicted.


That was 15 years ago and we now face a level of real risk few would ever have anticipated on Jan 1, 2000. Today our world is more complicated, the problems more convoluted. 

So how does one feel good about the new year? I suggest you click on the 1997 video below and hear Fred Rogers ask for 10 seconds of silence to honor those who loved you into being.

If you remember Fred Rogers, the people you honor have likely died. They may not have been your parents. But for most of us there was a person, maybe even a neighbor, who loved us into a being capable of acting on behalf of the greater good this coming year.

YouTube Video Link:


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Bing Crosby may not sing “White Christmas” this year, but you will get through it

Posted on Dec 12, 2015 in General Grief, Holidays

Bing Crosby

There is a beginning, middle and an end to every day. And that includes Christmas.

Christmas day is one of those days of the year when many of us don’t care what we do as long as we are not alone. The day has that much power. Whether we are religious or secular “Joy to the World” is the theme of the season. And we often feel we have failed others or ourselves if we don’t feel the joy.

That said the consumer market does nothing to help keep our expectations in check.

Christmas commercials of happy actors with beautiful faces and bodies, beautiful white teeth and beautiful smiles run through dry white snow, shop, gaze into each others’ eyes – or sit around a white clothed table overflowing with food… and they are happy!

But let’s be realistic. These people are acting to sell you something!

Reality: the not uncommon grin-and-bear-it holiday

Yes, some families share a pleasant holiday year after year after year. And they are blessed.

Then there are those who pile together year after year after year for a “grin-and-bear” Christmas. By this I mean they gather and pretend there is no other place they would rather be—while counting the hours until they can hug and say goodbye.

A client of mine recently emailed me to say that “the person who dreamed up ‘this is the most wonderful time of the year’ should be punched!”

Bottom line I beg you to consider that I am being honest rather than cynical. Things can go right and things can go wrong, and in certain families holidays are consistently tedious.

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What to do for the Holidays: Throw Everything You Own onto the Floor

Posted on Dec 1, 2015 in General Grief, Holidays


Holidays are often difficult, but they can be unbearable when you are coping with the absence of a loved one. You have likely been told (or read) that it is healthy to start a few new holiday traditions of your own as you rebuild your life after loss.

That said you may think I am stretching the idea with what I am about to propose—but don’t automatically dismiss what will take your mind away from the worst of it and help you face the coming new year.

Tackle a hard-to-face job by making it part of a larger one

I doubt that sorting your deceased loved one’s belongings is on your holiday to-do list.  But if you are 9-12 months post-loss, I suggest you roll the small but difficult task into a larger project. So what is the larger project? Declutter your entire home.

Don’t stop reading yet. The December project I am proposing will

  • help you shift your focus away from the holidays;
  • provide those less fortunate with holiday gifts (Goodwill, etc); and
  • move you into the grey weather of January/February feeling lighter and more organized.

Author and grief counselor Francis Weller says “to work thru grief you must engage it, sit with it, and mull it over.” Unfortunately you know this all too well. So why not engage, sit with and mull over what your house or apartment holds as part of your overall process.

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Memory Bears

Posted on Nov 14, 2015 in General Grief, Holidays


A meaningful holiday gift for your family members

Many years ago I saw a picture of a calico memory bear in a magazine and thought it was a wonderful way to turn the clothing of deceased loved one into a cherished keepsake.

I was facilitating a lot of support groups at the time so I presented the idea at a spousal loss group: I would find someone to sew if they brought in the fabrics. The next week group members brought in bags of their husbands’ and wives’ clothing. With the Simplicity Pattern in hand, I met the woman who’d agreed to sew for us—and a few weeks later she called to say the bears were ready.

Tears came into my eyes as I walked into her workroom and saw the long line of tall patterned button-eyed black nosed bears sitting on the work counter. The seamstress was crying as well, saying she had gotten to know each person as she put their bear together. She also said that even though all of the clothing had been washed, the scent of the person who had worn the clothes remained.

Needless to say our next support group meeting was an emotional one. No one was prepared for how beautiful the bears were—or how special.

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