Coping with Grief and Loss During the Holiday Season


By Renee Jenkins, MSW, Oxford Bereavement Coordinator

If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, the holiday season can be a very difficult time. During the holidays, people tend to become acutely aware of the absence of someone they love. Painful feelings may be intensified and loneliness may become more profound. Following are a few suggestions to help you move forward and make the most of the holiday season.

  1. Accept Your Feelings and Acknowledge Your LossAttempting to bypass feelings requires a lot of energy, and it is not a good way to heal grief. If this is your first holiday since the loss, it may be especially important to talk with others and be honest about how you are feeling. Don’t be afraid of tears shed amongst family or with a friend; acknowledging what is in your heart provides relief and a sense of closeness. However you feel, accept it.
  2. Be Good to YourselfRemember that your sadness can drain your energy, which puts your health at risk. Shopping at peak times, attending lots of gatherings and otherwise attempting to “make merry” may increase fatigue and loneliness. This year, you might want to scale back—spending a quiet evening at home, listening to music or writing in a journal may be a more nurturing use of your time.
  3. Listen to Your Inner VoiceYour instincts may tell you that it’s a good day to have a friend over for coffee, or that perhaps you should skip the big New Year’s bash. Pay attention to this inner voice—it’s one of the best friends you have! Intuition may lead you to the perfect person or activity for that moment while keeping you from situations that are not helpful. This is a time to respond to your own needs, not to other’s expectations of you.
  4. Blend New Traditions with OldDecide which of your traditions you want to repeat this year. If an absent loved one was responsible for these traditions, decide to whom you might want to delegate these traditions. Rituals from past holidays may magnify the sense of loss of your friend or family member. Sometimes these traditions may feel comforting; if not, establish a new holiday tradition. Do what feels best to you.
  5. Make It Okay to be AloneWhile isolating yourself from others is not recommended, there are many times when solitude can be vital and deeply satisfying. Explore being alone and find out what is most compelling to do during your alone time. Loneliness can be triggered by the idea that “everyone else” is out having a good time, but use this quiet time to remember and think of the special people in your life.
  1. If Children are Part of Your Holidays – Focus on the KidsChildren, especially those younger than 13, grieve in a more intermittent way than adults. This is why they are still so excited to celebrate the holiday season. Children may be more interested in traditions and festivities than the adult members of your family this year. Ask your family members and friends to help provide that “holiday spirit” for the children in your family. Children need not be shielded from your times of sadness; their own grief is more understandable to them if they can see that you share the same feelings.

You are always welcome to join Oxford for our Grief Support Groups available in Southwest Missouri. You can also contact our Bereavement Department at

(417) 883-7500 for more information. If you live outside of Southwest Missouri and would like more information about a Grief Support Group near you, please visit

November is National Hospice Month and National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

By Elizabeth Lee, RN, BA, CHPN Oxford’s Hospice and Palliative Specialist and Carol Combs, MSW Oxford’s Memory Care Program Coordinator

Hospice is a wonderful and caring option for people who are facing end of life illness. The primary goal of hospice care is to help maintain the highest quality of life in the last stages of an illness.

Hospice serves individuals with any terminal illness, including Alzheimer’s disease. The Hospice Interdisciplinary Care Team includes the physician, nurse, social worker, chaplain, aide and grief services. This team works together with the patient and family to help manage the unique needs of end stage Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias.

Hospice focuses on comfort, support and managing pain rather than providing treatment. People with Alzheimer’s disease become more disabled over time; and with advanced dementia, individuals can no longer communicate their wants and needs. Focusing on the senses—touch, hearing and sight—can bring comfort when verbal communication cannot.

An Alzheimer’s patient could be eligible for Hospice care if they:

  • Are unable to ambulate without assistance
  • Are unable to dress or bathe without assistance
  • Are unable to swallow
  • Are unable to speak or communicate meaningfully
  • Have urinary and fecal incontinence
  • Have UTI’s (urinary tract infections), decubitus ulcers and/or aspiration pneumonia

The end of life path of hospice patients can be divided into one of three typical patterns:

  1. A short period of obvious decline at the end (typical for most cancers)
  2. Long-term disability with periodic intensification and unpredictable timing of death (typical for a patient with chronic organ system failure)
  3. Steadily declining function with a slowly dwindling course to death (typical for a patient with frailty, dementia or Alzheimer’s)

End of life decisions become more complicated if wishes have not been or cannot be expressed by the dying person. Families then have to speak for the person based on their knowledge of the individual’s values and beliefs.

What is the current quality of life, and how will the on-going treatment potentially impact quality of life?

Patients and families need to understand benefits versus burdens before treatment continues or is introduced. This requires truth telling and explanations in a language the patient and family are able to understand.

Family members caring for a dying loved one with Alzheimer’s often express relief—for the patient and themselves—when death comes. It is important to understand that these feelings are normal.

Hospice can help the patient and caregiver deal with the challenges faced in the patient’s final months, and offer grief support both before and after the loved one dies. Hospice helps ensure the highest quality of life while being treated with dignity and respect.

For more information about Oxford’s Hospice or Memory Care Programs, please contact one of our Care Coordinators, today.


November is National Caregivers Month

senior couple sitting together on patio laughing

By Carol Combs, MSW, Oxford’s Memory Care Program Coordinator

We’ve all heard the expression “laughter is the best medicine”, but sometimes it is very difficult to find the humor in a stressful, caregiving situation.

There are many positive effects gained from laughter.

  • Laughter releases tension
  • Laughter improves breathing
  • Laughter strengthens your immune system
  • Laughter releases endorphins
  • Laughter boosts energy
  • Laughter reduces pain
  • Laughter elevates mood

Finding the humor in the smallest thing can help you through difficult or stressful times.

Have you laughed with your loved one today?

  • Try reading funny books
  • Watch comedy movies, TV shows or posts on YouTube
  • Read the comics
  • Act silly
  • Play with a child
  • Tell a joke

Life can be frustrating, but try to look for something positive. Try to smile and laugh, even if it feels forced. The body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. You get the same physiological and psychological benefits.

Caregivers have shared anecdotes as examples of finding humor in caregiving:

Our cat has been acting weird and we didn’t know why until yesterday, when we caught Mom putting coffee in his food dish!

One evening while my parents were watching TV, Dad looked at Mom and said, “Are you ever going home, you’ve been here all day?”

Grandma’s community had a hat party. She didn’t have a hat so she wore a pair of panties on her head. You’re never too old to have fun!

When Mom passed away, I had the unenviable task of choosing her casket. I had to find a way to release the tension; so, I asked the funeral director if they had any caskets on clearance because my mom never bought anything full price. I’m sure Mom smiled at that!

Laughter is a priceless medicine that is free, fun and easy to use! Laughter works—no joke!

November is National Caregivers Month, and we want to acknowledge all caregivers who selflessly give so much to care for someone else.