by Lin Sue Cooney, Director of Community Engagement, Hospice of the Valley

Losing someone you love isn’t a one-time hurt. Grief has a way of sneaking up on us. Just when things seem to be getting better a familiar song, a whiff of perfume or an old photograph can innocently trigger a memory. Instantly, we’re pierced with pain.

Coping with such loss is even harder during the holidays. What used to be a festive time of decorations and parties — laughter and togetherness — now seems meaningless. We’re paralyzed by the thought of shopping and socializing. How can we continue old traditions like nothing has changed?

Everything has changed.

There is no miracle pill to take away the pain and no magic wand that restores the sparkle of the season. But grief experts say there are ways to survive the holidays and celebrate moments.

Honor the old and create the new. No matter what you do, the memory of your loved one will be with you this holiday season. Find a way to honor and acknowledge that, while still creating new family traditions to share going forward.

Set limits. Let everyone know that you will not be over-doing, over-shopping, over-cooking, over-pleasing or over-worrying this year. This is not a time to be a perfectionist. Accept help when it’s offered.

Plan ahead. Don’t be afraid to say no. Choose activities that will make the holidays enjoyable for you. Do a few special things with a few special people, not everything with everybody. Nurture yourself during this vulnerable time.

Grief is not something to be conquered alone. If you are struggling, we can help. Comerica Bank and Hospice of the Valley are hosting a community event in Scottsdale on Nov. 8 to help grieving families cope with the holidays. There is no cost to attend, but please register at

You may also find comfort at our annual community remembrance event celebrating the lives of loved ones who have died. Light Up a Life will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 19 at Steele Indian School Park. This no-cost event is open to all.

After the holidays have come and gone, help is still available. Hospice of the Valley provides no-cost grief support to anyone in the community. Groups meet Valleywide. For a list, view

Although it’s true that life will never be the same, it’s also true that people do heal after losing a loved one. It doesn’t happen quickly but recovery is ahead. It isn’t easy, but you can find hope and happiness again.