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Dec 20, 2022

Many things count as grief and loss – from the actual death of a loved one to the loss of a significant relationship. As cliché as it may sound, there’s not one way to deal with grief and loss during the holidays.

We’ve all just lived through a pandemic that took a lot of lives and loved ones away from us. As the holidays approach, it may be more challenging to deal with the celebrations—decorating, maintaining or foregoing family traditions, getting your shopping done, and deciding what holiday events you can handle. And it doesn’t matter if this is your first holiday without a loved one or the 20th. 

For caregivers, they face the double loss of the person they cared for and their role as a caregiver. They may need to talk about their losses, and these feelings may be positive or negative.

I’ve heard grief described as being like the ocean with its waves that ebb and flow. Sometimes the water is calm, sometimes, it’s overwhelming. And the healthiest response is going to be to learn to swim – rather than avoiding the water. 

In today’s episode of This Is Getting Old: Moving Towards an Age-Friendly World, I’ll share four tips to help you learn to swim if you are experiencing feelings of grief and loss this holiday season.

Key points covered in this episode:

✔️ Tip #1: Take Good Care of You—Self-Care Is Not Selfish

Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself permission to not do things that you don't feel like you can handle. Be in tune with your emotions and how you're feeling in the moment—be okay with it

Make sure that you're planning healthy meals and eating good food that's healthy for you. See to it  that you're getting plenty of exercises, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding alcohol— that's going to make you sadder. Don’t miss getting enough sleep.

✔️ Tip #2: Get Support—Cry, Laugh, or Get Mad—It's OK to Feel It All

There may be different triggers to grief and loss, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to stifle your emotions. 

Set aside time to experience the range of emotions you may experience – from anger to sadness. You should be truthful about your feelings when asked, but be sure that you don’t hurt the person doing the asking. 
More importantly, release your emotions by watching a tear-jerker of a holiday movie – or one that makes you belly laugh. Both are fine and healthy ways to release normal feelings.

✔️Tip #3: Acknowledge and Honor The Loved One That You’ve Lost

Create new traditions in memory of your loved one. You can donate to a cause they are passionate about, volunteer and donate your time, or plant a tree.

Talking with close family and friends to reminisce and remember the person and good times with them can be helpful. You can also look at family photos, watch old movies and share stories of past holidays.

✔️Tip #4:Focus on What You Can Control—It's All About the Present

None of us really can control when someone else dies or if they leave a relationship, or maybe we end the relationship. Stay focused in the moment and not get too caught up in the past and not worry too much about the future because that's why it's called the present.

You can cook your favorite meals, eat your favorite foods, and then even journal about your thoughts and feelings might help you to ease out what's within your control and what's not.

✔️A Thing To Remember: There's No Right Or Wrong Way To Process Your Emotions

Be sure that if you are grieving and need help, you find family and friends that you can turn to. But also realize that many people feel awkward if you try to share your feelings. It would be best to decide if that's a person that you can trust to handle your own emotions. 

Furthermore, you can draw comfort from your own faith. You might need to try to find a support group or talk to a therapist or a grief counselor.   
If you have questions, comments, or need help, please feel free to drop a one-minute audio or video clip and email it to me at, and I will get back to you by recording an answer to your question. 


About Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN:

I earned my Bachelor of Science in Nursing ('96) and Master of Science in Nursing ('00) as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) School of Nursing (SON). I genuinely enjoy working with the complex medical needs of older adults. I worked full-time for five years as FNP in geriatric primary care across many long-term care settings (skilled nursing homes, assisted living, home, and office visits), then transitioned into academic nursing in 2005, joining the faculty at UNCW SON as a lecturer. I obtained my PhD in Nursing and a post-master's Certificate in Nursing Education from the Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing ('11). I then joined the faculty at Duke University School of Nursing as an Assistant Professor. My family moved to northern Virginia in 2015 which led to me joining the George Washington University (GW) School of Nursing faculty in 2018 as a (tenured) Associate Professor. I am also the Director of the GW Center for Aging, Health, and Humanities. Please find out more about her work at