Healthy Lifestyle

8 Tips to Cope With Grief During the Holidays

Published: Nov. 18, 2021

Grief following the loss of a loved one can be a difficult experience. And no matter where you are in the grieving process, your emotions can seem to be amplified during the holiday season. 

We’re constantly reminded that the holidays are about spending time with family and friends. But if you’re grieving, feelings of loneliness and emptiness can feel ever more present. It can seem as if a spotlight is shining down on that empty seat next to you, showing the world that your loved one isn’t here to experience the holidays.

Strategies to deal with loss

So how should you maneuver through the holidays while grieving? Communication is the foundation of a healthy plan. Take the time to discuss your concerns about the holidays with your family and friends. Let them know what your wishes and expectations are, and allow them to share theirs.

Then consider the following approaches that have helped others dealing with a loss:

Examine your holiday traditions. Decide which ones to continue and which to change or let go. Let others know about changes so they’re prepared. For instance, if Grandpa always carved the turkey, decide ahead of time who will do that job. If Dad was the one who always said the prayers, decide who will take on that role.

Rethink your to-do list. Do you really have to do everything? Do you really need to send greeting cards, bake dozens of cookies, decorate the whole house and prepare a large family dinner? Some people benefit from such routines, but for others, it can be overwhelming. Decide for yourself what you can handle and if you need to simplify things or get help.

Talk about the person who passed away. Acknowledge that it’s difficult without them. When others realize you’re comfortable talking about this, they will be too. Share memories about past holidays or stories of your loved one. Most people find it best to not try ignoring that the person they’re missing is gone.

Consider honoring your loved one. If Grandma loved reading to children, collect book donations for a local day care. If your loved one enjoyed animals, perhaps gather toys or supplies for an animal shelter.

Change your shopping plan. If shopping among the holiday crowds feels like too much, enlist a family member or friend to help, or shop online.

Accept help from others. Delegate your other tasks, such as meal preparation or picking up relatives at the airport. Most of your family and friends would love to help – you just need to ask.

Take care of yourself. The holidays can be emotionally and physically exhausting. It’s important for you to get enough rest, eat healthy food and drink plenty of water. 

Enjoy the holidays. It’s OK to feel the happiness and joy of the season. It’s OK to laugh and live in the moment with family and friends. Take time to recognize and experience the joys that come with the holidays.

Your journey is unique

Perhaps most important, know that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Everyone does it differently. And while it can be painful and frustrating, it’s a natural process. Remember to go at your own pace, cut yourself some slack and ask for help if you need it.

More Resources

About the Author

Amy Monzingo, MS, NCC, LMHP, LMHC, is a counselor at Best Care EAP. She enjoys helping people by offering tools and techniques to handle situations they are struggling with.

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