Workshop offers advice to cope with grief during the holidays

Surviving the holidays after losing a loved one can be difficult, but nurse specialist and counselor Lenore Bayuk has coping tips.

“It is important to remember holidays can be especially painful for those who are grieving,” Bayuk said at a workshop titled Grief and Loss, held Nov. 9 at the San Juan Island Library. There are many reasons holidays can be rough, including societal pressures to be happy, and the memories holidays trigger.

Bayuk advises against canceling holidays. Instead, be realistic about how much responsibility to bear. Don’t cook a full Thanksgiving meal if you aren’t up for it, she said, consider other options. Preparing a simple meal, visiting friends or family and going to a restaurant are all potential solutions. There will be a free Community Thanksgiving Dinner, Nov. 24, at the Mullis Center for those craving a social atmosphere.

Using holidays as a time to serve others can also be helpful, according to Bayuk. People have been amazed at how they feel after volunteering at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. With 401 registered nonprofits throughout the islands — with causes ranging from animals and the environment to education, substance abuse, and domestic abuse — there is a plethora of local volunteer opportunities.

Honoring loved ones through ceremony — like having a moment of silence during a holiday toast — can be beneficial and so can forming new rituals and traditions.

Creating art such as a poem or painting can be very therapeutic. Designing what Bayuk calls a memory box can also help ease the pain. Memory boxes can be a simple box with a few photos and keepsakes of the loved one, or can be more elaborate, whatever feels inspiring.

It has been a tragic year in the community, Bayuk said, even if you are not grieving, someone close to you might be.

“The most important thing you can do is talk to the person grieving and share stories about their loved one,” Bayuk said. Offering to help with day-to-day tasks can be greatly appreciated after a death, as simple chores can be overwhelming.

“One thing to remember about grief is that there is no end point,” Bayuk said, “and there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays.”

For info, visit, or the library which carries several books on grief and loss.