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Grieving During the Holidays

Grieving during the holidays can be an especially difficult time of year. Holiday-related events are the time to spend with loved ones, which can make it painfully obvious that someone is missing. If you are mourning the loss of loved ones this season, whether they just passed or they’ve been gone for years, here are some important things to keep in mind.

Do what you can. It’s up to you which activities, traditions, or events you can handle. You are not obligated to participate in anything that doesn’t feel doable. Create realistic expectations for yourself and others, but above all, be gentle with yourself. Whatever you do, is the right thing for you. It’s all OK — there is no one right way to do this. All you need to do is get through the day, week, or season in a healthy way that is comfortable for you. Try not to focus much further ahead than that.

Remember. Find a way to remember your loved ones during the holidays. Maybe that means putting up their favorite ornament in the front of your tree, dedicating a service to them at your church, or making the meal they always enjoyed for your family supper. It’s important to remember.

Honor. In times of grief and loss, when we may feel paralyzed by sheer emotion or negative feelings (sadness, anger, resentment), the biggest comfort may come from giving to others. Taking action that makes a difference can help widen our perspectives. For example, you can honor a loved one you’ve lost by donating to a charity or cause she cherished. Or you can buy something that symbolizes the person or what you shared with him to donate to a family in need.

Share. If you feel up to it, talk about the person you miss. There are probably other people in your life that would like to talk about this person as well. Sharing your favorite memories or stories about this person will help keep their memory alive. If you find it difficult to talk about the people you miss, think of this quote by Julie Hebert,

“May there be comfort in knowing that someone so special will never be forgotten.”

If someone you know is grieving a loved one, it can be hard to know what to do or say. You can use any of the ideas above to support them if you feel they are up to it. If not, just be there to support them. Be present for this person, even if you don’t know the right words. Your presence is likely enough for them.

Rather than asking your loved one what you can do to support them with their grief during the holiday, ask specific questions like, “I’m going to the grocery store. Do you need anything?” “I’m pickup dinner. Can I drop off something for you?” “Do you have a shopping list? Can I pick anything up for you?” This takes the pressure off them

The holidays can be a very happy or very sad time. Often, if you’ve lost a loved one, it’s time all the memories come creeping back. That is normal. Grieving is a very individual and personal journey. No one can tell you how to grieve or how long it will take. If you feel hopeless or isolated, reach out to a loved one, doctor, or mental health professional.