From Elizabeth Burneka. MSN, APRN

December 22, 2021

If you ask anyone about how they feel when thinking about the holiday season, chances are good that they will mention: joyful, grateful, celebratory, peaceful. Someone coping with the loss of a loved one to cancer will most likely experience a variety of emotions as they grieve, including tremendous loss, depression, loneliness, anger, and anxiety. As the holidays approach, these feelings can intensify and lead to isolation as those who grieve revisit memories and observe others preparing for the season.

The important thing to remember is, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Allow yourself time to grieve, express your feelings, and accept them. This process is different for everyone. It might seem like everyone around you is singing, decorating, and going to parties, while you find yourself experiencing an overwhelming sense of dread when you look at the upcoming activities on your calendar. My OHC colleagues and I offer a few helpful suggestions for coping with loss during the holiday season:

  • Have a plan. Decide whether you want to keep the same traditions or create new ones. Host a party at a different venue. Sometimes a change of scenery can offer some comfort.
  • Determine the activities you’d like to participate in and remain flexible. If you find that you’d rather be alone one evening, skip the planned activity. Let others know that your attendance at gatherings will depend on how you feel that day.
  • Accept the help of others with holiday preparations. Be comfortable making a specific request for assistance with baking a dessert or decorating your home.
  • Take care of yourself. Be mindful of your nutrition and get enough sleep. Exercise is proven to help with depression. Consider yoga, meditation, or writing in a journal.
  • Surround yourself with loved ones who will understand your feelings and don’t be afraid to seek support. Talk to others who have lost a loved one or participate in a support group. Cancer Family Care ( and Cancer Support Community ( have several options.
  • Honor the memory of your loved one. Share memories around the dinner table, light a candle, make a charitable donation in their name or volunteer at their favorite organization.
  • If you find yourself enjoying a celebration or laughing at a classic holiday movie, don’t feel guilty or conflicted. The grieving process can be an emotional roller coaster.

Earlier this year, OHC shared a blog, Surviving the Loss of a Loved One With Cancer, on our website. It expands upon these suggestions and offers additional insight. The OHC family recognizes that there is nothing fair about cancer. We hope that memories of your loved one will bring you some comfort this holiday season and on your continued path towards healing.

For more information on OHC’s commitment to delivering clinical excellence combined with unmatched support for cancer patients and their loved ones, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit

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