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Grieving Through the Holidays


An angel and a snowman she made as a little girl, along with a wonderful candle holder a friend gave me, honor Shaelee’s memory on our Christmas mantel.

Christmas is upon us and I am both relieved and apprehensive. The holidays this year are especially difficult for my family because they are the culmination of our first year of grief. My niece, Shaelee, lost her life to suicide on Jan. 4 at the age of 19.  She suffered from bipolar disorder for much of her life. It has been a rough year – to say we miss her terribly is such an understatement.We also have the challenge of ongoing grief and loss as my parents, for whom I have been primary caregiver for several years, battle health challenges and changes in their abilities and roles. My Dad has Alzheimer’s disease and every day brings another loss and more to grieve. This is the first holiday season when he doesn’t really know who I am.

Each of my family members will have different perspectives on what we can handle this year. Grief is an individual and unique process; there is no “right” way to grieve through the holidays. I wrote a column for AARP.org about this, Dealing with Grief Through the Holidays: 10 Things to Help Get You Through this Difficult Time, and I’d like to share my own personal perspective on how I am dealing with it:

I will continue to breathe in and out, put one foot in front of another and focus on the here and now. I know that we will get through this together. Grieving will continue – it’s an ongoing process – but I hope that we will have some good moments and make some good, new memories this year.