Handling Grief During the Holidays

Updated: Dec 27, 2018

For most people, the holiday season is a time of family, friends, and joy. For those who are grieving, however, the traditions and celebrations becomes a painful reminder of someone who is no longer with us.

The grief can become more intense and the pain even sharper than you could have ever imagined. Even if you thought you had turned a corner on grief, you may be taken by surprise when sadness bubbles up at unexpected times, especially during the holidays.


There are things you can do to get through the season if you find yourself suffering grief during the holidays, or you are supporting someone who is. Remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Ask for help, visit with a specialist, or find a support group to help you navigate this difficult time. Remember, everyone handles grief in his or her own way. So be patient! And make sure to budget time for self-care. Here are 6 tips for managing grief during the holidays:


1. It's OK To Know And Accept Your Grief.


Don’t be hard too on yourself for feeling sad. Pretending to feel “normal” when in all reality, you don’t, is quite frank not a healthy idea. And while sure it's not a bad thing to feel sad, but keep in mind, it’s also acceptable to enjoy yourself. Find yourself laughing and smiling and don't think it means that you are being untrue to the person you have lost. Simply smile and know they too are smiling down at you for being super strong.


2. Create A Plan, Think of What Could Come About.


You don’t have to take part in every holiday event, think of how many you may come across, from work, to family, to your friends, right? Think about which functions may be particularly difficult and just choose otherwise. Just don't seclude yourself completely since isolation may not be the answer either. Have a plan in effect for what you will do if you are at an event and you feel the need to leave. Talk to a friend, family member, loved one, a teddy bear, whatever, but allow that person or object to help you decide which events are ones you can handle and which aren't. Some would argue that visiting the cemetery site or the place where a loved one was lost may help to feel close enough to them as a means to feel somewhat of comfort. To each is own in what works and what doesn't... some will write, some will sing and some will simply cry. And that's OK.


3. Be Slightly Open With Others


If you are struggling, don’t keep it to yourself. It may seem tough to let others in on your pain but that's the worst thing you could possibly do. Talking to a loved one, lost or alive and explaining to them in the best way you can on how your're feeling could potentially come with a strategy discussion on getting through this difficult time. Those close to you will understand and can help you decide what you can reasonably manage. Don’t hesitate to seek the advice of a professional if you feel you need it, sometimes, we all do we just can't fess up to needing it. However, it's always best to get it out then to hold it in. Never let your grief get the best of you, even during the holidays.


3. Pamper Yourself A Bit


Taking part in holiday events in moderation is wise. Overindulging in activities, alcohol, or food can intensity grief so instead, book yourself a spa day. Relax and try to unwind the body. Set aside quiet time or one-on-one time with family members. You don’t have to schedule every single moment, but always think of when your "me-time" could be again. Just take little bits at a time and make sure to give the necessary self care you need to help keep you afloat, don't be ashamed to nourish the mind body and soul.


4. Try Something Out Of The Box


The holiday season is filled with many fun things to do, some of which you may have done with your loved one at one point when they were alive and well. In fact, that’s one of the things that makes this time of year so special, right? Unfortunately, for those who are grieving, it’s one of the things that can make it the hardest since participating in traditions brings back memories that can make the loss feel sharper. If taking part in a tradition is too painful, skip it. Don't even bother. Even better, create a new tradition. Make it your own. Incorporate things that honor the person you are missing. The activity may be something as simple as lighting a candle, planting a tree, writing a letter or creating a journal entry talking directly as if your loved one was there with you.


5. Do Something To Give Back


Science has proven that helping others can give a lift to those who are feeling down. While this may not apply specifically to grief, there is anecdotal evidence to show that volunteering during the holidays may help boost your spirits. If your loved one had a connection with a community effort, working in that area can be a great activity. If you don’t have a particular organization with which to work, look for a food bank, shelter, or community organization that is active over the holidays.



There is no timetable on grief and the holidays can be difficult no matter how long it has been since the loss. You don’t need to give yourself a cutoff date. You do want to prepare, however. Always remember to be kind to yourself. And one more reminder that if you think you need professional help, ask for it. There are many resources available and you owe it to both yourself and your loved one to take care of yourself while you're still able. Have any other tips? Leave us a comment!