How to deal with grief during the holidays


(Big 2/Fox 24) – This holiday season is a time for joy, but for some, it will also be a time of sorrow, as this will be their first holiday season without a loved one. 

“Holidays for folks who are grieving are very difficult, and part of it is that there is an expectation that holidays are joyous times. And at the same time for a grieving individual, they are a time of deep sorrow and profound loss as well,” said Mike Butts, Service Support Coordinator with the Hospice of Midland and Odessa. 

Butts said that grief is not a staged process; it moves back and forth between all emotions of joy, sorrow, acceptance, bargaining, and what-ifs. No matter the emotion, Butts said it’s essential to let yourself express your grief and mourn. 

“Mourning is the expression of that grief, so you can choose how you mourn for your loved one. Some people chose to do it in an unhealthy way, but take care of yourself and choose a way that is healthy, and that honors their memory.”

Clark Racca, a Chaplain at the Hospice of Midland and Odessa. 

Butts and Racca both said, to survive the holidays, it’s essential to have a plan, coordinate with your family, and be open and honest.

“Probably what’s going to happen is you are going to be together with family then at some point there is going to be an intense emotional reaction. It’s unavoidable when you are together. The memory is going to come, and it’s going to be intrusive, and maybe your plan is going to be I am going to step out of the room, and I’m going to be by myself and let those emotions flow,” Butts said. 

Extended Conversation with Mike Butts, Service Support Coordinator with the Hospice of Midland and Odessa, explains how grief works and has tips for those who are grieving and mourning during the holidays. 

Butts also recommends having a signal for family members when you need help if you are in a group setting. They want families to know that it’s okay if someone doesn’t want to put up a tree or lights this year. Having open conversations and reaching out to support groups are great ways to help with grief during the holidays. 

The Hospice of Midland and Odessa have resources available for those in need, and for a full list of events and programs, you can visit their websites: Hospice of Midland and Hospice of Odessa. 

Amanda Provence also wants families to know that they are not alone. Provence lost her brother to suicide a couple of months before the holidays, eight years ago, on October 1, 2011. She said the first holidays are tough, and she encourages everyone to express their grief.  

Extended Conversation with Amanda Provence, the host of this year’s International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day in Odessa.

“Take the time you need to fall apart if you need to. Have support around you to help pick you back up. Don’t stay there, but move forward in that journey.”

Amanda Provence

Provence will host this year’s International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day in Odessa, which was the first-holiday event she attended after her brother died and contributes to the friendships she made at that event to her success in healing. 

Provence says November 23, 2019, is celebrated around the world and is an important day to bring attention to the suicide and mental health epidemic. “Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24, and 90% of people who end their lives have a treatable mental illness,” said Provence. 

Everyone who has lost a loved one to suicide is welcome to attend the free event. 

  • International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day
    • ‘Friendsgiving’ on Saturday, November 23, 2019.
    • Location: Antioch Church- 4040 Maple in Odessa 
    • Time: 12:00-2:00 p.m.
    • Details: Lunch is provided in a potluck style, and people are encouraged to bring a dish. For more information, reach out to Amanda Provence at

For a list of all International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day event, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website. 

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