National Donor Family Council Help Families Cope With Grief During the Holidays

New York, NY
November 5 , 2002

For those who have lost a loved one, the holidays are more than just wish lists and weight gains. Celebrating can be difficult when a family member is no longer part of the festivities. To help grieving families cope during the holiday season, here are some tips from the National Kidney Foundation's Donor Family Council, a group of 10,000 health care professionals and families who have donated the organs or tissues of loved ones who died.

  • Buy a strand of battery-powered miniature lights, string them on a miniature tree, decorate it and place at the grave. Family and friends can bring miniature ornaments to trim the tree.
  • Plant a living thing to commemorate your loved one. Make the planting a ritual with invited family and friends. Serve punch and cookies after the planting.
  • Take time to have family members share their favorite stories about your loved one on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day or Hanukkah.
  • Set a place for your loved one at the holiday dinner table. Place a candle or flower on the plate in his or her honor.
  • Set aside some time before opening gifts to discuss the non-material gifts that your loved one gave the family: family values, morals, beliefs or humor.
  • Instead of signing his or her name on your holiday cards, add a symbol of your loved one: a butterfly, an angel, a bird, a star or a heart. Purchase a special stamp and pad with this logo on it and use it often.
  • Be sure to acknowledge the person that is gone. Don't ignore the loss and pretend that things are the same. Remembering your loved one in a positive way will make you feel better.
  • Let the loved one who is gone be part of the holiday by loving them openly, in front of yourself and others. Share memories, place a picture in a prominent place, cry, laugh, pray.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this holiday season, the National Donor Family Council is dedicated to enhancing the sensitivity and effectiveness of the organ and tissue procurement process; providing opportunities for families to grieve and grow; and utilizing the unique perspective and experience of these families to increase organ and tissue donation. For more information on the National Kidney Foundation's National Donor Family Council, please call (800) 622-9010 or visit www.donorfamily.org.