Coping With the Holidays When You Are Grieving

Bereavement Services Manager

Holidays and special days can be very difficult when you are grieving. During the holidays as you gather as a family to celebrate the season, the absence of a loved one is deeply felt. Well intentioned friends may encourage you to get out of the house and be among other people, yet you may not feel up to being around others.  It’s important to take special care of yourself during this holiday season and to give yourself permission to participate, or not participate in the festivities as you feel able.

Let your family and friends know what your needs are.  Talking with your family and friends before the holiday can help you and your family to avoid resentment and disappointment. Let them know what you need in order to make it through the holidays, whether it is being with people or being alone.

Allow yourself to cry.  It’s important not to negate your feelings.  This is a difficult season.  Don’t pretend that nothing is wrong.  Your hurt reminds you that you have loved and you have been loved.  Cry and talk to supportive people when you need to.

Consider scaling back the celebration.  It may be helpful to modify the holiday traditions. If you were the host or hostess for the family meal, consider delegating that role to another family member this year. Although traditions may change for this year, you can always resume them next year if you feel able.

Lessen your responsibilities.  This may be the year to forgo greeting cards, to bypass giving gifts or to give gift cards instead of shopping for presents, or to choose to omit the holiday decorations.  Others find it comforting to decorate as they have in previous years.  Be guided by what you feel able to do.

Honor your need for quiet.  Grief can make you tired and easily overwhelmed. Lessening your commitments during the holiday and honoring your need for rest and quiet can be helpful.

Honor the memory of your loved one.  Consider making a gift or donation in your loved one’s name. Light a candle or put out a picture or photo album.

And most importantly, take care of yourself physically.  Try to eat regular balanced meals, drink plenty of fluids, exercise in moderation and allow time for sleep.

There are many ways to cope with the holidays and special days. Remember, it is important to communicate your needs as you are grieving. Realize that bad days will come and go, and the holidays do not last forever. Allow yourself to hope and celebrate the memory of your loved one. Know that you can stay connected to your loved one as you move forward beyond your grief.

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