Coping with Grief During the Holiday Season

Alice Wisler
The empty chair where your loved one sat will be difficult to handle during the holidays.

Coping with grief during the holiday season can be exhausting. Holidays tend to bring out cherished memories and make you miss your loved ones that much more.

The Holidays and Grief

If you have experienced the loss of someone you love, the days following his or her death are long and hard. Yearning for the person takes much of your time. As you anticipate life without them during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day, you may wonder if you will be able to handle the holidays. What will these special times be without their presence? How will you get through them?

Advice on Coping with Grief During the Holiday Season

Experts and those who have been through the holidays without a loved one give advice on what you can do. Ponder on the following suggestions:

  • Be realistic. The holiday season is going to be different and possibly not at all festive in your mind without your loved one. You might experience anger or frustration, along with intense sorrow.
  • You do not have to do it all. Perhaps in the past you were the one who made the lavish meal at Thanksgiving or had all the grandkids over at Christmas. The first years, and especially the first year of holidays without your loved might, be a time for you to curb the many activities you once did. You may not have the energy to cook, bake, or entertain. Let someone else do the work.
  • Create a new tradition that encompasses your loved one's memory. This can be done by lighting a candle in his or her memory at the mealtime, or by having each one around the dinner table share a short story about the deceased.
  • There is no right or wrong. Handle the holidays the best you can. If you choose not to participate in a particular service or outing due to your grief, do not judge or be critical of yourself.
  • Take care of you. Be sure to eat healthy meals and get the rest you need. If journaling your thoughts or emotions helps, buy a journal and pen your feelings. Writing is therapeutic for many.
  • One day at a time. You will survive the holidays without your loved one. One day the season will end and you will see that you lived through each day. What an accomplishment!

Share Your Feelings

If you have a friend or family member you can talk to about your feelings, you are truly blessed. Voice your sorrow to another person. Share memories of your loved one. Do not neglect to admit that you are hurting without your mother, father, or grandparent. Remember that it is normal to grieve. If you belong to a church or synagogue, set aside time to talk with your pastor or rabbi.

Support Group

There are groups filled with people who have suffered a loss like you have. Search the Internet for a group that will meet your needs. See if there are gatherings for those who have lost a child, parent, or sibling in your area.

Helpful Reading

Reading the penned words of someone with expertise on getting through the difficult days can be helpful. Consider the following books to give you insight and hope when you find yourself coping with grief during the holiday season. All of the books can be purchased at

  • How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies by Therese A. Rando
  • Empty Chair, The: Handling Grief on Holidays and Special Occasions by Susan J. Zonnebelt-Smeenge and Robert C. De Vries
  • How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Peter McWilliams
  • Good Grief: A Constructive Approach to the Problem of Loss by Granger E. Westberg
  • After the Death of a Child: Living with Loss Through the Years by Ann K. Finkbeiner
  • I'm Grieving As Fast As I Can: How Young Widows and Widowers Can Cope and Heal by Linda Sones Feinberg
  • What Helped Me When My Loved One Died by Earl A. Grollman
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Coping with Grief During the Holiday Season