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Grieving Loss of a Loved One This Holiday Season

Millions of people across the nation are spending the holidays with one less person in their lives.

Wellness Education Specialist at Gundersen Health System Christie Harris said the holidays can be a difficult time for people and when you throw that grief on top of it all, this time of year can be very challenging for folks.

Therapists say the grieving process is different for everyone, but there are ways you can still enjoy the holidays.

Mental health therapist Bill Bakalars says anything goes when it comes to grief.

"Every emotion that you can think of. I mean, grief is a tough one because there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, so half the battle is understanding that," Bakalars said.

Bakalars said emotions will come and go as they please; what those grieving need to know is that's OK.

"It's OK to suddenly feel angry or to feel like not wanting to be around people and that sort of stuff. And that kind of self-acceptance with people kind of helps them get through stuff a lot faster," Bakalars said.

"Realizing it's OK to laugh and it's also OK to cry. So you're going to have a wide variety of different emotions that you're going to experience, but if you find yourself actually enjoying the holidays, you don't need to feel guilty," said Harris.

Harris said the holidays bring lots of traditions. Not being able to share those traditions with the people we care about the most can add to our grief.

"So what you could do is you could maybe pick some of the holiday traditions that you used to enjoy doing together and still continue to do some of those; if that's too difficult then maybe you want to start some new traditions and that's an OK thing to do as well," Harris said.

Harris and Bakalars agree that everyone deals with grief in different ways. There is no timeline, it's all about moving on at your own pace.

"If you find yourself laughing, that's OK. It's a way for us to deal with those emotions and the more we experience them the easier it is for us to get through the mourning process," Harris said.

Bakalars said when it comes to grieving for your kids, he recommends keeping it "business as usual." Don't make any big changes, keeping that rythm-of-the-day is important for kids.

Harris also recommends taking advantage of a support system during the grieving process.

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