Cope with HOPE

Schoeneck advises sundry ways to get through the holidays, but specifically wants to remind the bereaved that there is no right or wrong way to handle them. You may wish to follow family traditions, choose to change them or just do things a little differently. And you can always change back, in the future, if you wish.

Suggestions, which can be found in a brochure that HOPE distributes, include planning ahead, shopping by catalog, phone or the Internet and cutting back on baking, decorating, cleaning and sending cards. Holiday dinner can be served buffet style and served at a different time or in a different room. Turn to your faith and concentrate on the meaning of the season. Consider attending holiday parties but also give yourself an out. If you decide to go, drive yourself and sit by the door if you need to leave in a moment's notice.

When you have children, these suggestions will also help them deal with their loss.

"You really have to think about [the children]," Schoeneck said. "Even though it's a difficult time, you have to think about them because they're grieving, too, but they're also kids. [Holidays] are such a family event. They need to know they're still important. If you say 'I'm not going to do anything' -- not when there's kids. Most people step up to the plate when there's kids involved."

As a friend of someone who's grieving, there are also steps you can take that make a significant difference during the holidays. Listen, offer your help by specifically listing what you will do (i.e. "Let me shop for you on Thursday afternoon"), send a special card, call on the phone, or bring a small gift such as a plate of cookies, an ornament or book for journaling. Stay in their life.

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