Coping with Grief During the Holiday Season

Alice Wisler
woman hugging husband's tomb stone

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. So the grief you experience, especially at this time of year, becomes even more excruciating and unbearable.

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.

Try Not to Cancel

Don't cancel the holidays. You may not feel you're ready to handle the holidays and that's okay. So simplify your holiday season this year. Save your energy for only what you prefer to do and where you want to go. But try not to skip it completely.

Let Others Help You

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 one 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.

You May Need Reminders

Don't be surprised if you become forgetful. Grief can be distracting and definitely affects our memory and concentration. The holiday season is typically hectic so do not hesitate to make lists or write notes on your calendar of things you need to do or places you need to go.

Do Something Special

You can create a new special tradition that encompasses your loved one's memory. This can be done by lighting a candle in his or her memory, by saying a poem, by buying a commemorative ornament to be placed on the tree, by having each one around the dinner table share a short story, by looking at photo albums and reminiscing or by visiting the cemetery and decorating the headstone.

Do Something Different

If you're not quite up to your typical holiday traditions, do something different. Change things up this year. You can give a donation or gift in memory of your loved one. You can invite a new guest to your dinner table. You can adopt a needy family. You can even just go to the movies for a change of pace during the holiday season.

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.

Grief is Healing

It is important to deal with your grief in order to heal. But you should experience the pain rather than escape it, so don't numb yourself with alcohol etc. The holidays will get easier once you allow yourself to grieve and you learn how to get through the holidays without your loved one.

Take Care of You

Be sure to eat healthy meals and get the rest you need. If writing down 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 support groups filled with people who have suffered a loss as 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.

Comfort During the Holidays

Ultimately, the holidays are all about your family and dear friends. Their help and support will comfort you immensely during your time of grief. Accept their help, spend time with them, enjoy their presence and cherish every moment. They will also be there with you to honor and remember your loved one in whatever way you see fit. While the holidays are guaranteed to be tough, there will still be much love and joy.

Was this page useful?
Coping with Grief During the Holiday Season