How to Survive the Holidays During a Time of Grief

Creating a new normal.

Posted Nov 23, 2020 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan

Source: Lolame/Pixabay

For many people, the holidays are not the most wonderful time of the year, and not the happiest season of all. The holidays can be a particularly difficult time for those who have lost a loved one. Smells, sights, and sounds can often bring with them a wave of sadness, loss, and emptiness that has perhaps subsided over time.

Here are a few ideas for those grieving. Anticipate and think about what triggers may upset you and try to prepare yourself mentally for what is to come in the next few weeks. Plan ahead. Decide how you will spend your time. The holidays often revolve around friends and family. If you have lost someone close to you, there will most likely be a void during the holidays. At a time when others around you may be very excited and happy, you may be feeling anything but that. Allow yourself time alone to reflect and to cry if you feel the need to do so. The void in your life of not having that special person around during the holidays may be very painful. Consider making a donation in memory of your loved one to his or her favorite charity or organization as a way to honor your loved one.

Don’t let others tell you what you should do on the holiday itself. Though they are well-meaning, they are not you. Everyone grieves differently. Grief is like a fingerprint; no two are alike. Despite what you may have heard, grief is not linear. Grief comes in cycles, like waves in the ocean. Give some purposeful thought as to how and with whom you want to spend your holiday time.

Create a special tradition in memory of your loved one. Light a candle or purchase a decoration that you think your loved one would have liked, or one that reminds you of your loved one, and hang it in a place of honor.

Practice self-care. Go for a walk with a friend who will listen, get plenty of sleep, and eat properly. Moderate exercise will make you feel better not only physically, but also mentally. Alcohol is a depressant, and while it may initially ease the pain and take some of the edge off your feelings, too much of it will most definitely make you feel even sadder and more depressed. Excessive amounts of caffeine and sugar can also affect how your body processes the stress of grief during the holidays. Be mindful of how much you are consuming.

Realize that you will not be functioning at your usual energy level. You will likely feel fatigued. Be mindful of what your mind and body are telling you and lower your expectations of yourself during the holiday season.

If you practice a particular religion, you may want to reach out to those in your community for support or look in your local paper for grief support groups in your area. Talking about your loss with others who have experienced what you are going through is often a source of comfort. Work toward living with the fond memories of your loved one and give yourself permission to celebrate and enjoy the holidays; your loved one would not want it any other way.