Coping With Grief During the Holidays

Throughout the year, special occasions, like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and weddings can be difficult for the bereaved. And for many, the hardest can be the holidays. There’s no right or wrong way to get through them. Some may wish to follow family traditions, while others may want a change. Here a few suggestions others have found helpful in coping with loss during the holiday season … choose the ones that fit best you.

Man stressed out
  1. Share your feelings with a relative or friend as the holidays approach.
    • Explain that this is a difficult time for you. Accept help — you’ll appreciate love and support at this time.
  2. Accept and experience your sadness.
    • The holidays can often magnify feelings of loss, and to block such feelings is unhealthy. Keep the positive memory of your loved one alive.
  3. Plan ahead.
    • Sometimes, the anticipation is worse than the actual holiday. Plan comforting activities in the weeks approaching the holidays, so you have something to look forward to. New activities might be easier, but familiar traditions might be comforting as well — do what feels best for you. Surrounding yourself with positivity can be very helpful.
  4. Only do what feels right.
    • It's up to you to decide which activities, traditions or events you can handle. Don't feel obligated to participate in anything that doesn't feel doable. Grieving takes time. You’re very vulnerable right now, so all you need to do is get through the day or week or season — in a healthy way. Try not to think much beyond that.  
  5. Focus on the children.
    • Try to make the holiday season as joyous as possible for them —  they’ll be affected by the way you get through the holidays. If you withdraw, they may not understand why you don't want to join the family festivities. Perhaps you can participate in the family rituals that are most important to the kids and excuse yourself when you reach your limit.
  6. Be careful of "shoulds."
    • It’s better to do what’s most helpful for you and your family. If a situation looks especially difficult over the holidays, don't get involved if possible.
  7. Set limitations.
    • Realize it’s not going to be easy. Choose the things that are very special to you, and just do the best you can. Once you decide on the role you and your family will play during the holidays, let friends and relatives know.
  8. Try to get enough rest. 
    • Grief can be emotionally, physically and psychologically draining, and you need every bit of strength. If shopping feels like too much, have a relative or close friend help you. Consider shopping through a catalogue.
  9. Do something different. 
    • If you’re accustomed to having the holiday dinner at your home, go to relative’s instead, or change the time (instead of 2 p.m., make it 4 p.m.). Help prepare a large meal. Or attend religious services at a different time or church or synagogue.
  10. Let go.
    • Some people fear crying in public, especially at religious services. But it’s usually better not to push the tears away. You should be gentle with yourself and not expect too much. Worrying about crying is an additional burden. If you let go and cry, you’ll probably feel better.
  11. Give.
    • It's amazing how in times of grief, giving to others can provide the most comfort. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or ask someone who’s alone to share the day with your family. Provide help for a needy family. Or donate a gift or money in your loved one's name.
  12. Skip it.
    • If you think it’ll be too much for you and you'd like to simply opt out of the holidays, let family and friends know. But plan alternative comforting activities for yourself and tell others what you’ll be doing. It's a good idea to make sure someone checks in with you during this time.
  13. Accept your feelings — whatever they might be.
    • Some people try to avoid sad feelings; others are bathed in tears. Some feel bad they’re not up for enjoying the holidays; others feel guilty because they’re feeling joy. However you feel, accept it as well as the inevitable ups and downs. You may feel peaceful one moment and gut-wrenchingly sad the next. Try to stay in tune with your highest truth, and you’ll know how to get through the holidays without judging yourself or others.