Coping with Grief During the Holidays

The holiday season can be a difficult time for those who are grieving.  If you have lost a loved one, be gentle with yourself. Give yourself permission not to live up to others’ expectations for you (or the expectations and pressures you put on yourself), but listen to your heart and only do those things that feel right to you.

  • Plan to spend time with people you enjoy, and who can accept your sadness as well as your joy.
  • Know that it is okay to make your needs known to people. Those who care about you genuinely want to help but often aren’t sure how.
  • Some of the biggest problems people experience are due to a lack of understanding of how other family members feel.  Therefore, some people find it helpful to have a family meeting prior to the start of the holidays so that they can talk about and understand everyone’s needs, share ideas on how to approach this particular holiday season, and be prepared ahead of time.
  • Changing routines that have been part of your holidays but may seem too painful this year can be a help. However, try not to change everything. Instead seek to combine some old traditions with some new ones. Keeping a few traditions helps to preserve memories and continuity.
  • If social occasions and invitations seem overwhelming, try to handle them one at a time. You may feel like participating on some days, while others may seem too difficult. When invited to an event, ask to leave the invitation open so you can decide how you feel at the last minute and allow yourself to leave early if you find the event overwhelming.
  • Shopping will be easier if you make lists before you go. When you are having a “good day,” take out the list and go shopping. You’ll be able to accomplish much more in a shorter amount of time and with less uncertainty. You might also consider simpler shopping methods this year, such as ordering on line or from catalogues, or buying gift certificates.
  • Consider opening presents on a different day or at a different time; light a candle in memory of your loved one; observe a moment of silence before dinner; make a charitable donation in memory of your loved one; wrap a picture of your loved one or one of their cherished belongs and give it as a gift to another family member who shares your loss.
  • If you are trying to help children cope with a loss, remember that children need consistency to feel safe. If you plan to make some changes in routines, try to present these as something “fun” you’re going to be doing, instead of something that is not going to be happening this year.

The holiday season can be a difficult time for those who are grieving.  If you have lost a loved one, be gentle with yourself. Give yourself permission not to live up to others’ expectations for you (or the expectations and pressures you put on yourself), but listen to your heart and only do those things that feel right to you.

  • Plan to spend time with people you enjoy, and who can accept your sadness as well as your joy.
  • Know that it is okay to make your needs known to people. Those who care about you genuinely want to help but often aren’t sure how.
  • Some of the biggest problems people experience are due to a lack of understanding of how other family members feel.  Therefore, some people find it helpful to have a family meeting prior to the start of the holidays so that they can talk about and understand everyone’s needs, share ideas on how to approach this particular holiday season, and be prepared ahead of time.
  • Changing routines that have been part of your holidays but may seem too painful this year can be a help. However, try not to change everything. Instead seek to combine some old traditions with some new ones. Keeping a few traditions helps to preserve memories and continuity.
  • If social occasions and invitations seem overwhelming, try to handle them one at a time. You may feel like participating on some days, while others may seem too difficult. When invited…