Coping With Loss Around the Holidays

By Mitra Lebastchi

The loss of a loved one can be more salient during the holidays when there is a large emphasis on family, togetherness, spiritual reflection, and a new year approaching.  Everyone grieves differently but here are a few tips to help you navigate the holiday season.

  • Remember to be loving and kind to yourself when navigating the grief that may be triggered by the holidays season.  Allow yourself to feel any sadness, joy, anger or other emotions that might come up.         
  • Allow your family and friends the space to grieve in a way that feels comfortable for them
  • Adapt family traditions or create new ones that reflect your family values but also accommodate the new normal you are adjusting to.
  • Plan early for the ways this holiday season may be different to reduce being overwhelmed at the last minute
  • Accept love and support from friends and family, even if you don’t think you need it
  • Take time alone as necessary but balance with planned time with others to avoid feeling isolated
  • Be mindful of the things you are grateful for this holiday season, it’s okay to enjoy the holidays too.

Grieving/remembering can be done privately or with the support of others during planned holiday activities.  Here are some ways to grieve and/or remember your lost loved one during the holiday season:

Ways to remember privately:

  1. Visit your loved one’s gravesite or a place important to them
  2. Write a letter to your loved one updating them on the things they have missed since they died
  3. Buy a gift your loved one would like and then donate it to charity
  4. Volunteer for a cause your loved one valued
  5. Go for a brief walk or find another way to spend time alone if you feel overwhelmed during holiday activities

Ways to grieve with others:

  1. Create a memorial corner with photos of lost loved ones
  2.  Pause for a moment of silence during a holiday meal, in memory of them
  3. Set a place at the table during a holiday meal that remains empty for the lost loved one
  4. Take turns exchanging stories and memories of your loved one
  5. Light a candle in remembrance 

No matter what you decide to do, recognize that your authentic feelings have a place during this season. Some people believe the holidays are meant to be "all happy all the time." The truth is life happens, as does loss, hardship, and grief. Consider one of the ways above to pay your respects and honor your loved one's memory, while allowing yourself the opportunity to create new holiday memories or traditions.  

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