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Northwest Colorado Health: Honor those lost this holiday season


Jaclyn McDonald
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Creative activities such as a memory box or lantern help children channel their emotions, and provide an opportunity to honor the memory of a loved one lost during the holidays.
Courtesy photo

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But for those who have lost a loved one, it can also be a time of sadness, stress and loneliness. Know that you are not alone and that there are others in our community who are coping with loss and working to get through the holidays.

Grief is complicated and can be unpredictable. Simple memories, thoughts, sights, sounds and smells can set off intense emotions. And holiday traditions may trigger an additional feeling of loss that celebrations will never be the same again. 

“It’s OK to take a break from holiday traditions and find time alone if you need it or try something new, such as spending the holidays with different people or in different places,” said Dr. Jo Anne Grace, spiritual and bereavement coordinator for Routt County with Northwest Colorado Health. “When you change your environment, it encourages new discoveries and balances old memories.”

If you feel up for it, embrace your memories during the holiday season and share them with family and friends — whether happy or sad. Below are some tips to help you heal and honor the memory of those that you have lost this holiday season.

  • Creative activities are a good way for children to channel their emotions. Decorate a shoebox and fill it with photos and trinkets that remind the child of the person they have lost.
  • Create a memory lantern and incorporate it into your holiday decorations. A simple candle that you light when thinking of your special person or a jar with an LED light that children can decorate.
  • If you decide to hang a deceased family member’s stocking, put out paper and a pen, so that family members can write down a special memory or letter and put it in the stocking. 
  • Create an ornament to remember your loved one. One simple option is to purchase a clear ornament and insert a special note to your loved one. 
  • If you’re not up for recreating a favorite family dish and the stress that it might not taste the same, try incorporating your loved ones’ favorite food into your holiday menu — even if it’s not a traditional holiday recipe. 
  • Make a conscious decision to do something different if you need distance from the grief. Volunteer and give back in your community, go for a walk, visit a friend — allow yourself space from grief knowing that you will come back to it and channel that energy into a positive experience. 

Grief is a normal part of life. This can happen when a loved one dies but also when we experience other types of loss such as losing a job, getting divorced, moving, finding ourselves in an empty nest or separated from friends and family. 

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Northwest Colorado Health offers community grief support groups throughout the year, as well as a Youth Resiliency program for young people experiencing adversity. Behavioral health specialists are also available at all Northwest Colorado Health locations to help you better manage sadness, anxiety and issues related to life stress and health problems.

To learn more and find crisis support resources, visit northwestcoloradohealth.org or call 970-879-1632 in Steamboat Springs, or 970-824-8233 in Craig. 

Jaclyn McDonald is marketing coordinator at Northwest Colorado Health. She can be reached at jmcdonald@northwestcoloradohealth.org or 970-871-7642.


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