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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

HCI Hospice Care Services offers advice for dealing with grief during the holidays

Dec 05, 2017

The holidays are a time for joy and celebration for many Iowans, but they can also be painful reminders for families grieving the loss of a loved one. HCI Hospice Care Services, one of the state’s oldest and largest nonprofit hospice and grief support programs, offers some helpful advice to those living with loss during the holidays.

“Holidays, anniversaries or other regular celebrations can bring on a renewed sense of grief for families mourning a loved one,” said Rose Bohnenkamp, a bereavement counselor with HCI Hospice Care Services. Bohnenkamp provides bereavement education, support and counseling to families of hospice patients and also offers free grief support resources and events to the community.

Bohnenkamp says those who are struggling with grief should not feel obligated to participate in all the rituals of the holidays if they don’t feel up to it. Rather, they may want to choose the most meaningful traditions or only participate in activities that contribute to their emotional well-being.

“We often work with grieving families who want to skip the holidays altogether because it feels too painful,” Bohnenkamp said. “My advice to them is you are living with a ‘new normal.’ It’s perfectly fine to establish new traditions while finding ways to honor and remember your loved one.”

HCI Hospice Care Services offers several suggestions for those grieving a loved one during the holidays:

1. As a family, share or write down stories and memories about your loved one.

2. Set aside time to celebrate the life of your loved one.

3. Buy a holiday card for your loved one; write down how much you love and miss them.

4. Visit the cemetery and leave a wreath or flowers at the grave.

5. Light a candle in honor of your loved one.

If you are trying to support someone who has lost a loved one, consider sharing a favorite memory about that individual or offer to help with holiday shopping, cooking or errands.

“Most importantly, just be present, give them a hug and listen,” Bohnenkamp said. “Most people who are grieving just want to know they can count on someone to support them as they grieve on their terms.”

HCI Hospice Care Services offers grief support groups and memorial gatherings which are free and open to the public. To learn about the program’s monthly “Touching Our Grief” support group, or to take part in an eight-week “Understanding Your Grief” educational grief support group, please see the events calendar at

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