Coping with Grief in the Holiday Season

(This post originally appeared in 2014)

As an estate planning attorney dealing with Wills, I am often part of the grief and grieving process of a family. I become part of the process when the families consult about the Will or estate plan of a recently deceased loved one.  This grieving process is made more difficult during the holiday season, a time that is meant to be a joyful sharing with family, friends and loved ones.

Recently, a colleague told me about the sudden death of a friend’s mother, just before Christmas. The family was close knit and the death was unexpected, making the event even more tragic.  Apparently the mother was admitted to hospital for what was to be a routine procedure; had complications; was later pronounced brain dead and the family had to make the unbearable decision to end life support.

Such events bring to the forefront the fragility of life and coping with the unexpected. The family, in this case, knew the wishes of their mother – her wishes were written, clear, and unequivocal and were to be respected. The mother had legal documents in place to cover the ‘unthinkable’.  My colleague shared that the family, although deep in grief, had faith that the wishes of their mother were being carried out and this gave them some modicum of comfort.

Had there been no Medical Directive – the family would have been in the position of trying to “guess” and asking themselves – What would mother have wanted? What do we do? How do we make this decision? In this case, their mother had given them the precious gift of knowledge – knowing precisely what her wishes were in the situation.

Often the best gift we can give family and loved ones is this knowledge – the explicit knowledge of what we want them to do; what action to take and how to confront the ‘unthinkable’.

I, personally, have found great help in the writings of Amy Florian. Her book titled “No Longer Awkward: Communicating with Clients Through the Toughest Times of Life” (Amazon: Jan. 30, 2014) offers answers to the question: “How do I support a grieving client?”

Ms. Florian is CEO of Corgenius ( a unique service for professionals. According to her website: “With exceptional grace, good natured humor and rock-solid science, we teach service professionals how to support their clients in times of grief, loss and transition.”

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About Attorney Barbara Ann Dalvano

Attorney in Denver, Colorado with extensive practice experience in the areas of Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Business Succession Planning, Probate, Contract Law.

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