Dealing with Grief Over the Holidays
Days that once were joyful celebrations spent with family and friends can suddenly become
difficult reminders of loss for people who have experienced the death of a loved one. The first
holiday period following a loss can be particularly difficult, as it sometimes underlines how much
life has changed in the last twelve months. It’s hard to watch others get excited about the
upcoming parties and gatherings when you’re feeling overwhelmed by grief.
Your initial impulse may be to want to cancel the holidays this year, to skip the dinners, the
shopping, and the gatherings. While it's OK to be more selective about what you feel you are
ready to attend, you should avoid isolating yourself. Give yourself some alone time for
contemplation and remembrance, but also make time for planned gatherings.
Suggestions That Will Help You Cope During the Holidays
As the holiday season approaches, if you allow yourself to accept the fact that it may be difficult
at times, it will help you be prepared for it by getting the support you need and planning
accordingly. Here are a few ideas that you may find helpful:
Alter Your Traditions as You See Fit
You may find some of the old traditions to be very comforting, while others may seem
unbearable to you. Maybe you hosted the traditional family dinner in the past and, although you
don’t want to cancel it altogether, you would prefer it if it was held elsewhere. Discuss with your
loved ones which traditions you want to keep, which ones you want to alter, and which ones you
want to drop.
Give yourself permission to do things differently this year. If you’ve always tried to make the
holidays perfect for everyone, give yourself a break and let go of those expectations. If you don’t
feel up to sending holiday cards the way you have in the past, that’s perfectly fine too.
It's OK to Feel a Wide Range of Emotions
Chances are you will experience a full range of emotions during the holidays. There will be
times of great sadness. There are countless things you will encounter that may trigger memories
and grief. Permit yourself to cry whenever you need to, whether it's at the dinner table, at the
grocery store or anywhere else.
Grieving doesn’t exclude the possibility of experiencing moments of joy too. Laughing and
enjoying yourself doesn't mean you have forgotten your loved one. You shouldn't feel guilty
about feeling joy and happiness; you should cherish those moments.
Lean on Friends and Family as Much as You Need
Surrounding yourself with loving and supportive people is essential. Share your feelings and
memories with them. Accept offers of help whenever they arise, whether it's with decorating,
baking, shopping or any of your other chores. It will help to prevent you feeling overwhelmed by
your to-do list.
Be Kind to Yourself and to Others
Take good care of yourself. Pay attention to your emotions and seek counseling if you feel the
need to talk.
There’s also therapeutic benefit and comfort that can come from doing good deeds for others.
Maybe you can volunteer or make a donation in memory of the person you lost, or you could
sponsor a family in need for the holidays.
When all is said and done, there are no right or wrong ways to celebrate the holidays after you
have experienced loss. The important thing is to plan ahead and find healthy ways to cope.