How to Cope with Grief Over the Holidays

Grief During the Holidays

After losing loved ones, our world lacks its celebratory qualities; it is an especially difficult time. Holidays magnify that loss and it makes it difficult to feel joy. If your wife or husband passed, it can feel excruciating. The loneliness can feel isolating and the sadness deepens during a holiday.

The last thing you are thinking about is spreading holiday cheer. The need for support may be the greatest during the holidays and throughout the grieving process.

Pretending that you are not hurting and that the situation isn’t a hard time of the year is just not the truth for you. Most people can and will get through the holidays. Lean into your feelings, rather than avoiding them. It is the pain that you want to avoid, not the grief. Grief is love; grief is not just pain, and no one can take that pain away.  

10 Tips for Coping with Grief this Holiday Season

Understand that Grief is Part of the Healing Process

Grief is the process by which you heal. Time does not always heal the pain that is associated with a loss; it is what you do with that time that matters. Rather than trying to escape it, it is important to experience it—it can actually help you feel better in the long-term.

holiday_events_with_a_family_member

Stay Flexible

Be as flexible and and simple as possible. There may be situations where you need to skip certain activities depending on how you or family members are feeling.

In response to invitations, let people know that you will need to see how you are feeling on the day of the event as you may or may not be up for it. Do not feel pressure to over-commit yourself. 

Ask for Help from Family Members

To help cope with your sadness, reach out to other people for support. The grieving process does not have to be a lonely one, and coping with it alone can be difficult. Reach out to family or friends and let them know that you are struggling and need them.

Attend Support Groups

Support groups can be a great opportunity to help deal with the loss of someone you love and grief during the holidays. Your mental health matters, and having the support of others after a death is crucial. There are specific support groups that help you talk about your grief.

Online Support Groups

Not all support groups are in person, there may be virtual options as well. The nice thing about a virtual support group that is that you have option to participate in the comfort of your own home and will not have to leave the house.

Father and son walking on the field at the sunset time, boy sitting on mans shoulders. Concept of friendly family

Create New Traditions

Decide how you want to keep certain holiday traditions going, or how to create new ones. Plan in advance. Consider doing something to honor the memory of your loved one, even if it’s a virtual event. 

Set Healthy Boundaries

It is okay to say no to certain events. You certainly do not have to force yourself to face every celebratory tradition or holiday event. Be willing to say no if participating in the office gift swap or attending a tree lighting ceremony is likely to bring about too many painful memories this year.

You do not have to please everyone, especially if other people may try to convince you to participate. Attending every event may seem overwhelming, so it is important to take a moment to consider your feelings and decide what is best for you.

Practice Self-Care

Self-care is extremely important when coping with grief, which is why you need to make time to rest and enjoy the things that are important to you. Take the day off, say no to an event with family members if it is best for your mental health.

Plan Ahead

Typically, the anticipation of how difficult something may be will seem worse than the actual event itself. While, Thanksgiving dinner may only be a short two hours, you could easily spend three weeks dreading it. To avoid extending your anguish, it is important to create a plan for how you will get through the holidays.

Find a Way to Honor the Memories You Had of Your Loved One

Create a unique or special way to honor the memory of the person you have lost. Whether you decide to eat your loved one’s favorite food or light a candle every night, honoring your loved one can serve as a tangible reminder that despite your loved one being gone, the love never goes away.

Closeup on two young lovers holding hands at a table.

Allow Yourself Time to Process Your Feelings and Emotions

We may feel a wide variety of emotions during the holidays. You might feel guilt, joy, and sadness all within a matter of minutes. Allow yourself to feel those emotions without thinking you should be happy or laughing, or judging yourself.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do be gentle with yourself and protect yourself.
  • Do allow time for the feelings.
  • Do allow others to help. We all need help at certain times in our lives.
  • Do, in grief, pay extra attention to the children. Children are too often the forgotten grievers.
  • Don’t do more than you want, and don’t do anything that does not serve your soul and your loss.
  • Don’t keep feelings bottled up. If you have 500 tears to cry don’t stop at 250.
  • Don’t ask if you can help or should help a friend in grief. Just help. Find ways; invite them to group events or just out for coffee.

Specific Holidays

Everyday can seem difficult when you are grieving, but certain special days may seem harder to cope. Thanksgiving and Christmas may be the most difficult time for grieving a loved one.

This is typically a time when you get to see family and friends. Just because the holidays are here does not mean that you cannot enjoy yourself, it will just be different.

Children look at the snow through the window Christmas

Ways to remember your Loved One

Finding ways to remember your loved one during the holidays gives everyone permission to acknowledge the loss and provides a way to continue the relationship with the loved one. Some ideas include:

  • set a place at the table or place flowers or a special object 
  • volunteer somewhere in their memory
  • make a donation in their memory
  • share stories of the loved one around the table or during a gathering 
  • create a memory book or box with your children
  • light a candle for the loved one
  • read a poem or story in honor of the person

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A celebration of life ceremony celebrates life of the dearly departed. Unlike funerals the focus of the ceremony is on the life that was lived and not mourning of one’s death.

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