Professor offers suggestions for coping with grief during holidays

December 9, 2013

The holiday season can be a difficult time for someone who has experienced the death of a loved one. The emphasis on family togetherness and traditions can bring feelings of sadness, loss and emptiness, and the sights and sounds can trigger memories of the one who has gone.

Loss of a job, a marriage or a pet can also cause grief to be intensified at this time of year, says Carol Baldwin, director of ASU’s Center for World Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She has many years of experience as a hospice nurse and as a death, grief and loss educator. Baldwin is a certified thanatologist through the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC). But grief is not limited to death.  Carol Baldwin Download Full Image

“The impact of any type of loss can be magnified at this time of year,” says Baldwin. “Losing a job can be the death of a way of life. Losing a pet can be very difficult, especially for people who live alone, but they may feel reluctant to share their feelings for fear of being told they are foolish, or to ‘get over it,’ as it was just an animal. It’s okay in our culture to have a broken leg, but not okay to have a broken heart.

“It’s important to give ourselves permission to feel, to grieve. Don’t be surprised by the intensity of your grief at this time of year. Each of us has our own unique way of grieving, and in our own time.”

Baldwin, who is an associate professor in the College of Health Solutions and College of Nursing and Health Innovation, offers suggestions for coping with grief and loss during the holiday season:

• Keep in mind that the anticipation of a holiday may be worse than the actual day, or days. Make a plan for the approaching holiday and involve family or friends to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

• Continue to honor the holiday but think about making alterations. Consider lighting a candle in honor of the person’s life, or putting a special item, such as the person’s favorite family holiday photo, on display.

• Talk about your grief with caring family and friends. Telling your story can help you move through the process of grieving toward accepting the reality of your loss.

• Take care of yourself by getting enough rest, eating well, exercising and drinking alcohol only in moderation. Avoid trying to numb your feelings with alcohol, or stuff them with unhealthy food. Give yourself permission to express your feelings of grief, to cry, to pound pillows if you need to. Feeling mad, sad and scared are normal feelings for people who are grieving.

• Do something for another, like a donation to a food bank, a homeless shelter or a favorite charity, as another way of honoring the person’s life.

• At a family gathering or dinner, try not to pretend the death didn’t happen. If there is a tradition or story that was particularly meaningful, talk about it. Others might feel free to tell stories and share their memories of the loved one.

• Participate in healing activities such as working in a garden, getting a massage, yoga, jogging, playing golf or any activity that you particularly enjoy. If your faith is important, attend a holiday service and make it a remembrance service. Keeping a journal or diary can also help to express personal, private feelings of grief.

• Take time to think about the meaning and purpose of your life. The death of someone loved creates opportunities to take inventory and assess how you might make a difference in your own life, as well as someone else’s life.

• Read books and articles about grief. If you are feeling overwhelmed, seek out a certified grief counselor. A good resource for all of these is the ADEC website,

ASU Foundation exceeds goal for Giving Tuesday

December 9, 2013

Dedicated Sun Devil families contributed $10,831 to the ASU Sun Devil Family Association (SDFA) on Giving Tuesday, exceeding its goal by $5,831 and contributing enough to create three new scholarships and three new emergency crisis fund awards.

When matching funds were added in, the amount raised for the SDFA was $15,831. Download Full Image

The ASU Foundation also exceeded its employee-fundraising goal by raising $850 in gift cards to places like Target, Walmart and grocery stores for families in need.

Giving Tuesday is an annual day of giving back that occurs on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. Creators of the holiday hope to see it become as prevalent in American society as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Every year, the ASU Foundation and SDFA recognize this day by giving back to ASU students and families. This year, ASU parents Tim and Junette West generously offered to match every dollar donated, up to $5,000.

“Giving Tuesday is important as a day to spotlight our mission of supporting student success and building a university family community,” said Robin Okun Hengl, senior director of parent programs. Gifts made to the SDFA support student scholarships, free tutoring, an emergency crisis fund and a free Thanksgiving dinner for students who are unable to go home for the holiday. 

“The SDFA has truly been a blessing in my life, and I will forever be grateful to them," said SDFA student scholar Nicholas. "Because of them, I was able to continue getting my education at Arizona State University without having to worry about whether or not I would be able to register for classes because I was unable to pay the outstanding balance on my account.

“The family association has done more than just help me out financially, they have helped me give back to the community and the university. Because of them, I have been able to meet so many different people and help make a positive impact around the university and the community.”

Nicholas also helped volunteer at the free SDFA Thanksgiving dinner this year. Being part of the SDFA has given him a way to give back to others.

“I know that if I was unable to go home for the holidays, a warm Thanksgiving meal would truly help lift my spirits, so it is my hope that I am able to help do that for the students on Thanksgiving.”

Tania, another SDFA student scholar, emphasized the impact that the family association has had on her life as a student.

"The ASU Sun Devil Family Association has helped me to pay for my undergraduate education, and the way the activities are organized makes it feel like a family," she said. "It is not only financial support, but also emotional support.”

For more information on the ASU Foundation and its efforts for Giving Tuesday, visit asufoundation.orgFor more information about the SDFA and how to give back, click here or visit

To watch a video about the impact of contributions, visit more information on Giving Tuesday, visit