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‘Be kind to yourself:’ Navigating grief during the holidays

Comox Valley Hospice, Comox United Church host Celebrate a Life and Blue Christmas gathering
Comox Valley Hospice and Comox United Church host their annual Blue Christmas and Celebrate a Life event this Saturday, Dec. 16, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at 250 Beach Dr. in Comox. Courtesy Comox Valley Hospice

While many of us anticipate the holiday season as a time of joy and togetherness, for some, the celebrations are marked with feelings of grief or sadness.

For someone grieving a loved one, for example, the holidays can amplify feelings of loss. Others may be missing distant family or friends, or adapting to a new life event, or simply feeling overwhelmed with world events.

However you’re feeling, “it’s important to be kind to yourself,” says Joan Collinge, a longtime volunteer with Comox Valley Hospice Society, who notes that people express their grief differently – some will want to socialize, for example, while others will prefer to forego holiday festivities altogether.

“People manifest their feelings in many ways. Some just push it down, others are very open about their grief and express it in a way people expect them to. Everyone grieves in their own way,” Collinge says.

“Just be true to yourself and release, as much as you can, the expectations others have for you.”

Recognizing the difficulty the season can present, Comox Valley Hospice Society and Comox United Church host their annual Blue Christmas and Celebrate a Life event this Saturday, Dec. 16, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at 250 Beach Dr. in Comox.

Non-religious and open to all who find the holidays a difficult time of year, the program features quiet music, thoughtful readings from people experienced with grief, and an opportunity to remember or celebrate loved ones, if you wish, Collinge says.

“It’s a very welcoming environment; just walking into the sanctuary can be very calming.”

Upon entering, you’ll receive a tag to write the name of those you’re remembering for the Memory Tree, or to take home, if you prefer. There’s also an opportunity to light a candle and if you wish, to have your loved one’s name read aloud in remembrance.

Experienced Comox Valley Hospice Society volunteers will be in attendance, should anyone feel they need support, Collinge says, emphasizing that everyone is welcome, no matter where they are in their grieving. “We don’t want people to stay away for fear of tears – we are all very comfortable with grief.”

Supporting yourself and others at the holidays

If you’ve lost a loved one, you may want to find new ways to honour their memory. Some families like setting a place for them at the holiday table or including their favourite dish. Others find entirely new rituals, like lighting a candle during Celebrate a Life.

If you have a friend or a loved one who is grieving, open the door to them joining your celebrations in whatever way makes sense for them, no strings attached, Collinge suggests. Let them know they are loved and welcome, and if at the last minute they choose to come, or not, that’s perfectly alright.

And don’t be afraid to talk about a partner, parent, child or friend who has died, if they choose.

To learn more about Comox Valley Hospice Society’s grief support programs, visit You can also find a variety of resources here.

READ MORE: Comox Valley Hospice Society marks 40 Years of Caring