Grief during the Holidays

The holidays can be a time of joy and wonder. Reminders of the season have settled in on every street corner. The warmth of soft candle light, sweet smells and brightly colored décor becomes a welcome distraction from the chill of December and the bleakness winter often brings. For some, the holidays bring the promise of time spent with friends, family and loved ones. For others, the season serves as a milestone; a reminder that this holiday and every future holiday will have one less gift under the tree or one less place setting at the table.

Grief during the holidays can be especially difficult. By their very nature, the holidays are a time when we celebrate being with the people we love most. When death comes, the absence can be paralyzing. Well-meaning friends and family often offer tips and advice on how to cope during the holidays. A comment such as “she has her angel wings now” may bring comfort to some, while causing deep sadness for others. Communicating your emotional needs to friends and family is vitally important if you are going to manage your grief during the holiday season. Some additional tips for coping include:

  • Recognize that the holidays will be different this year.
  • Try not to isolate yourself from friends and family.
  • Plan—take time to reflect on your usual holiday routine and decide what activities you can and cannot do.
  • Find ways to celebrate and remember your loved one.
  • Give—look for ways to give back to those who are less fortunate.
  • Focus on creating new holiday memories and traditions for the younger generations of your family.
  • Reach out to a counselor, grief support group or a trusted friend to talk to.

Reconciling grief with joy is a complex task. No two people grieve the same. Your approaches need to work best for your needs and your preferences.

May the upcoming season bring you a renewed sense of peace and comfort.