Coping With Grief During the Holidays

For many people, the holidays are a time to laugh, spend time with friends and family and celebrate traditions. However, holidays can be a difficult time for those who are grieving and can heighten feelings of sadness and loneliness.

Entering the holiday season without your loved one can bring up many conflicting emotions which are all valid and part of the grief journey. You may feel sad and lonely while also finding some joy in being with friends or family. Grief does not happen in stages, nor does it have a timeline. It’s a very individual process and takes the time that it takes.

The need for support can be greater during this time. Ask for help or allow others to provide practical assistance with holiday chores like decorating, shopping, cooking or cleaning. Your loved ones may be looking for ways to lessen your burden.

It may be helpful to think about what is important and meaningful to you during the holidays. Do only what is special and meaningful for you. That may mean saying no to participating in holiday activities. It’s OK if you change your mind and cancel plans. It’s important to find balance and take the time you need to rest, exercise and care for yourself.

You may find it helpful to establish guidelines ahead of time which can reduce the stress of these difficult days. Guidelines can help you figure out how, and with whom, you want to celebrate the holidays. Think about who you want to spend time with, who you can talk to and how you would like to celebrate.

This can be a time for creating new traditions that honor your loved one and continue the bond you have with that person. You can create personal ceremonies to honor your loss. Below are a few ideas for personal ceremonies:

  • Visit the cemetery alone or with others. Place flowers, pray, or reminisce about your loved one.
  • Plant a special flower, bush or tree in memory of your loved one.
  • Light a candle in honor of your loved one.
  • Gather photographs, mementos and create a book of remembrance or place these items in a visible area in your home.
  • Listen to comforting music that reminds you of your loved one.

Finding ways to continue the bond with your loved one is an important part of the grief process. Although the person is no longer here, the love and feelings you have will endure long after their death. It’s normal to have a healthy bond with your loved one that continues throughout your life. The balance of letting go of your old life by adopting new roles, creating new directions and discovering new joys while continuing the bond with your loved one is a healthy way to adapt to your loss.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their grief, it’s important to seek help from friends, family or professionals if needed. It’s very normal and helpful to seek services to help process the complicated feelings that arise during the holidays. Sometimes it’s helpful to be around others who are also experiencing grief such as a support group.

Here at The Elizabeth Hospice, we provide several types of grief support including individual grief counseling, grief support groups, workshops and a Children’s Bereavement Program which includes peer support groups, school groups and a summer grief camp. For more information or to initiate counseling, contact us at 833.349.2054.


Kathleen Gordinier is the Director of Bereavement and Counseling Services at The Elizabeth Hospice.