Creating 'a new normal' around the holidays after losing a loved one

Today is a very difficult day for us at FOX 2 as we remember a very special person, our coworker and good friend Jessica Starr who we lost on this day last year.

Dealing with death and loss can be especially challenging during the holidays. And we know we're not alone, as many people are coping with grief as we speak. 

Grief expert and counselor Brigid Lynch says the holidays can be especially challenging with grief because that's when you're used to having all your family together with everyone feeling happy and joyful. 

"That void of that person not being with you is extremely difficult, it's larger than at other times," she says. 

Ryan Ermanni, Deena Centofanti, Jessica Starr and Lee Thomas wearing holiday sweaters.

Both she and Dr. Sabrina Jackson agree and advise that the best thing to do if you're experiencing grief is to first acknowledge it, and let it out. 

"It's so important to not bury our feelings and it's so important to acknowledge and celebrate the life. Jessica was such a big spirit, such a ham, as you say, and to celebrate those things about her is healing for all of us," Dr. Sabrina says. 

"Talk about the person by name," Lynch recommends. "You know, you're talking about Jessica by name today. That's one of the best things you can do, same thing at the holidays. Remember that person, together. That is something that will ease your grief if you can share it together."

Dr. Sabrina also urges anyone grieving to find their "new normal." 

"If I know that this time of year is a celebratory time of year and it's a place that, it's a pin mark for me that is difficult, what things can I then pull out that I create a new normal? I create something new that's good for me. I create something new that brings me joy around the holidays."

For us, one of our "new normals" is wearing matching star necklaces that remind us of Jess. Maurielle Lue and The Nine producer Connie Smith also got star tattoos. We also have a bronze star from Jess' childhood bedroom that was gifted to us to be a permanent fixture now on the set of The Nine. 

All of these things are a new ritual or a new thing that brings us joy but also a remembrance of Jess. 

FOX 2 coworkers wear matching star necklaces and hold up a bronze star in remembrance of Jessica Starr.

Deena Centofanti, Maurielle Lue and morning news producers Christina LaCombe and Connie Smith wear their matching star necklaces and hold the bronze star gifted from Jess' family to the set of The Nine.

Dr. Sabrina urges you to find something that you could do in remembrance of your loved one, too. 

"It can be through music, it can be through food, it can be through their favorite movie. I know for me, I've lost both my parents so for my father he was a big music person and certain songs I play all the time because I know he liked them. When I hear them it reminds me of him," she says. "If we can find those moments and those pieces and those places that brought us joy, it can bring us joy again."

Another important thing to remember is everyone's grief will be different. 

"First, give yourself permission to grieve. So many people think that if they are grieving if they're showing that grief response, that they're weak or that something is wrong with them. And that's just the opposite. If you can allow yourself to feel that grief, that's a pretty brave thing to be able to do, to know it's going to be that painful and yet face it yourself. So if you can give yourself permission, be kind to yourself. Don't have expectations of when it should be done, when it should be over, what it should look like, and don't allow other people to give you those expectations either," Lynch says. 

And lastly, if you want to reach out to someone this holiday season that you know is grieving, both experts say that's a great thing to do. 

"If you know someone who's grieving, approach them. Address them. Go to them. One of the best things you can do is speak about their loved one by name. Talk about them, don't avoid it. They're grieving; they know it; they feel it every day," Lynch says. "So if you can go to them and talk to them about their loved one, share a story, ask them how they are, but most importantly speak their name. Don't let them think that they are forgotten."

You can hear more from both Dr. Sabrina and Brigid Lynch in the video players above. 

MORE COVERAGE: Remembering Jessica Starr one year after her death


If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text 741-741.