Photo by Alex Green

By Paula Penebaker

The holiday season is touted as the most wonderful time of the year, but for so many, it’s painful to endure after losing loved ones to COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 1 million people have died of COVID-19 since 2020. Among them are more than 56,000 Black people who have lost their lives.

How can you celebrate when cherished traditions feel tainted? Grief may cloud your emotions, making you feel anything but wonderful this season. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s expected. As you walk the winding road of loss, remember to create space to care for yourself.

There are many trusted resources with helpful advice and ideas on how to cope with loss during a season of togetherness. Many experts say that understanding how grief affects your mental and physical health is crucial to healing. Below are a few tips for coping with grief and loss this holiday season:

Seek Support: One free, in-person option is speaking with a pastor or other clergy member, who can provide a listening ear and spiritual guidance. You can also join a grief support group, as you may find it easier to talk with strangers than with family. For those with health insurance, mental health counseling may be covered.

Change is good: Beloved family traditions can become painful reminders of an incomplete family unit. You have the power to amend your traditions, old and new, such as Christmas morning breakfast or doing the latest dance craze for social media. Part of coping with the holidays is learning to navigate traditions, and determining which ones you’ll keep, change and leave behind.

Offer Grace and Space: It’s important to realize that people cope with loss in different ways. Be willing to give yourself and your loved ones the grace and space to process their emotions. If you need support dealing with loss, these CDC resources can help.

Give the Gift of Protection: For those who have lost loved ones as a result of the COVID virus, giving the gift of protection can provide much-needed peace of mind. Updated COVID vaccines can give the gift of a boost in protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID. Health fairs in Black communities such as the Stay Well Health fairs bring easy accessibility to Black families during the pandemic such as health screenings and any COVID-19 needs. Visit the Stay Well Health Hub for more information.

For those who are struggling, the holiday season can be a season of hope and healing. Healing is a process, everyone heals differently. We’re stronger when we proactively process our grief.

Together, we can do this.

Paula Penebaker is a writer at CMRignite, a strategic marketing agency and a partner of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “We Can Do This” COVID-19 Public Education Campaign.

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