Q: My father died about a year ago and I still miss him terribly. I am not looking forward to the holidays as it will remind me that he will not be there for our family activities. Is there anything that can help make them more bearable?

A: It is normal to have grief and sadness after the death of a loved one. Holidays, birthdays, and special occasions are times that we particularly notice the loss of someone we love. In counseling we call those the "potholes and perils" of the grief process, because someone may feel they have dealt with the loss, only to have it come crashing back. Some tips would be, first remember that this is OK and normal when these feelings return. Just because you feel extra sad and want to cry someday doesn't mean there is something wrong with you, only that someone you care for is gone and that hurts. Second, the real problems do not occur from being sad or crying, they come when people try to stop the grieving process, say there is nothing going on, and stuff their feelings. People who attempt this only cause the hurt to become worse and last longer, become rigid about the loss, and often turn to unhealthy coping skills such as drinking, denial, or shutting down. Third, use positive support and coping skills. When you feel sad that could be a time you call up a friend and have a nice evening with them. Or spend some quality time with your wife, kids, or grandkids.

If your family is open to the idea, I wonder if when your all together during the holiday, you could dedicate some special time to spend reminiscing about all the good memories of your father? You may laugh, you may cry, you may smile or bawl, but it will be a very healthy experience. It will also help immensely with the grieving process. Secrecy, avoidance and not speaking about the issue are enemies of the grieving process. Besides, I bet your father wouldn't mind spending this Thanksgiving looking down on his family members reminiscing about the good things of his life.

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