“It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .”

If you’ve lost a loved one, you’ve likely experienced the confusing and painful mix of emotions when celebrating “big days” like birthdays and anniversaries. Come November and December, there may be an extra sharpness to grief, as the most sentimental and nostalgic holidays appear on the calendar.

Many on our care team at Sunset View Cemetery & Mortuary understand this difficulty firsthand. We also have a unique perspective on grief as we help families in El Cerrito, Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond plan final farewells for their loved ones.

When someone special dies, it’s natural to focus on how much you have lost – and this is especially true at holiday time. What will Thanksgiving be like without Uncle Bill around to organize family games? Who else can make latkes as delicious as Grandma’s? Who will sit at the head of the dining room table now that Dad is gone?

Even in the midst of hardship, we want to offer this advice: When you wake up to face a new day – particularly as the holidays roll around – think about what you’re grateful for. We understand you may not feel like giving thanks. Certainly it’s easier to focus on gratitude when life is going smoothly.  But as we’ve learned in our 100+ years of helping families and coping with our own personal losses, gratitude is one of the greatest healing tools available.

Consider these tips to help you find ways to express gratitude, even in the midst of grief.

Did your loved one have an organization or cause that meant a lot to them? Think about offering a donation or volunteering to help in some capacity. Many charities need an extra hand during these busy months, and helping out will shift your focus onto those in need – even for a short time.

As you wake up each morning, write down three specific things you’re grateful for. Research shows that focusing on gratitude improves sleep, increases positive emotions, and strengthens the immune system. This exercise doesn’t need to take long, but it will set you in a positive direction from the get-go.

Reflect on holiday traditions. Activities and rituals make this time of year extra special, and losing someone who took part in them can be devastating. As sad as it may feel, it’s important to think and talk about the traditions that are part of your family. You can then decide if you want to carry on as usual, put certain activities on hold, or start a new tradition in honor of your loved one.

Rather than trying to maintain a happy façade and glossing over your feelings, talking about what you were grateful for in years past can help you heal while building your connection with those closest to you.

Everyone’s path through grief is different, but one thing remains the same – you don’t have to bear your sorrow alone. For immediate support and to learn more about the grieving process, check out our Guiding Grief Interactive Video Support. Always remember that we’re here to support you. Don’t hesitate to stop by our funeral home in El Cerrito or reach out by phone or email anytime.