Health Watch: The challenges of grief during the holiday season

The holidays are more stressful than in past years, thanks to the pandemic - but following a...
The holidays are more stressful than in past years, thanks to the pandemic - but following a few simple tips can help alleviate some of the stress that comes with the holidays and winter.(WAGM)
Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 4:16 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The holiday season can bring its own set of challenges for those going through loss and grief. There can be increased stress and a feeling of isolation.

“I think one of the pieces that can be really difficult for people around the holidays is noticing that so many other people have gatherings planned, maybe thinking about spending time with family and friends, and maybe they’re at a place in their life where they don’t have those relationships available right now for whatever reason,” said Valerie Gifford, Director for University of Alaska Fairbanks Student Health and Counseling.

An additional source of stress can be that feeling of not being happy during a traditionally joyous time.

“Part of that heightened sense of loneliness could also be, you know, typically around the holiday season. These holidays, there’s an expectation of joyousness and celebration, and so just seeing other folks experiencing that can also increase that disconnect that maybe you’re not feeling that in the same way that others might be,” commented Sarah Jensen, a counselor with UAF Student Health and Counseling Center.

COVID-19 adds additional challenge by preventing those who are grieving from gathering together.

“One thing that is really complicated around grief right now during COVID is, you know, there’s a lot of tradition around gathering for many people who are grieving and that’s different in COVID. Some people may prefer to still gather and that adds stress to other people who are questioning ‘is that safe, is that what I should do, is that socially expected?’ There’s quite a bit wrapped up right now I think in how you grieve, and that looks different. I think that can increase that isolation,” said Marie Skanis, another counselor with UAF Student Health and Counseling Center.

For UAF students seeking help, contact the UAF Student Health and Counseling Center at (907) 474-7043. For veterans seeking help, call the Fairbanks Vet Center at (907) 456-4238. There is also the SAMHSA hotline at 1-800-487-4889 and

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