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Dealing With Grief During the Holidays

Holiday stress combined with the grieving process can be challenging.

Key points

  • At least 35 percent of individuals don't look forward to the holidays because of the loss of a loved one.
  • Grief is complicated and unpredictable. It's important to give yourself time to grieve and heal from the loss of a loved one.
  • During the grieving process, it's important not to isolate yourself but rather to make an effort to surround yourself with others.
Source: monicore/pixaby

The holidays are often a time for celebration, but when grieving the loss of a loved one, those emotions can become intensified. A recent survey of 2,000 people showed that 36 percent of the respondents did not want to celebrate the holidays due to feelings of grief or loss.1

Grief is complicated and often unpredictable. It comes in waves and sometimes, like the ocean, it’s calm and chill. Other times, it’s turbulent and violent. We could be in the middle of a holiday party or enjoying the company of friends one on one when suddenly we break out in tears. Sometimes there might be triggers, such as conversations, photographs, or being in places that you were with your loved one, that cause the release of this emotion, while other times it could be a spontaneous eruption. Some of our feelings can be positive or negative ones.

Allow Yourself Grieving Time

Remember that we all grieve differently, even those of us within the same family. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Be gentle with yourself and do what feels right for your needs.2 If your loss was recent, you might need to carve out more time to process it, during which you should allow time for grieving and reminiscing together: “Grief is visceral, not reasonable: the howling at the center of grief is raw and real. It’s love in its most wild form.”2

Take Care of Yourself

Sometimes when we’re grieving, we forget about our own needs, especially if we were deeply involved in our beloved’s care and meeting their physical and psychological needs. In those situations, our loved ones’ needs come first; thus, the adjustment to not having them in our lives becomes difficult. As much as possible, try to return to your return and indulge in activities that bring you joy. It’s important to step aside and consider what tools can help us cope with our loss. Moving our body gets the blood flowing, and it could be something as simple as taking a walk that helps us process our grief. When we are struggling emotionally, it’s always important to get enough exercise. Other ideas include listening to podcasts, journaling, or enjoying entertainment such as a book or movie. Make sure to include a balanced diet and plenty of rest and recovery time.

Surround Yourself With Supportive Individuals

It can bring a great deal of comfort to surround ourselves with those who are either grieving and understand the experience or are empathetic toward those experiencing grief. Togetherness and interconnectedness are good antidotes. Sometimes it’s healing to share stories of the lost loved one, even if your audience did not know the person. You might want to consider joining a grief support group or speaking to a trained and understanding therapist.

Honor Your Loved One

Engaging in ritualistic behavior can be comforting during times of grief. Consider writing a letter or a poem to your loved one, lighting a candle in their honor, displaying their photos, playing their favorite music, making their favorite foods, creating a memory box, writing about them on social media, planting a tree in their memory, and, if you’re nearby, consider visiting the place where your loved one was put to rest. According to research into transitional grief objects, when you have items that remind you of your loved one or symbolic connections nearby, these too can help with the grieving process by providing a sense of security.3

Give to Others

To help with the grieving process, it can help to reach out to others who might also need support and love. Consider making a financial donation or volunteering to an organization connected to your cherished loved one. You might want to consider buying gifts for those who were involved in your beloved’s care. This is about channeling negative energies into more positive ones. Generosity, helping, and making offers to others can make us feel better.


Always honor your individual grieving process and understand that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. The grieving journey is a personal one—if you feel the holiday festivities are simply too much for you, then it’s OK to refrain. Just be careful not to isolate yourself too much, because this can lead to depression. More often than not, it’s good to have just a bit of well-chosen company during the holidays. Sometimes it’s just best to live in the moment and be grateful for life’s many blessings and remember, too, that grieving takes time.


1. Experience Camps. (2021, November 2). A Look at Grief 2021: Survey Results from The Harris Poll. Retrieved December 7, 2022, from…

2. Devine, M. (2017). It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand. Boulder, CO. Sounds True.

3. Goldstein, R. D., Petty, C. R., Morris, S. E., Human, M., Odendaal, H., Elliott, A. J., Tobacco, D., Angal, J., Brink, L., & Prigerson, H. G. (2020). Transitional objects of grief. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 98, 152161.

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