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How to cope with grief during the holidays

Holidays can be hard for everyone but can be hardest for those who are grieving. The holidays are filled with reminders of family, support, traditions, and rituals, all of which are directly impacted by a loss. A loss will change family dynamics, the type of support one gets, and the traditions and rituals will be experienced differently when a loved one is gone.


Emotional preparedness for the holidays is necessary to make it more manageable.

Along with choices, you also will need to plan ahead. Planning is especially important for kids, but helpful for adults too. The emptiness of the holidays will be more manageable if you have a plan in place. As you are planning, it is also important to accept that you might not be able to handle the holidays and the pressure that arises from them in the same way. Give yourself permission to not do it all and to not show up in the same way as you have in the past.


Below you will find some tips to consider as you prepare for the upcoming holiday season.


Tip #1- Remember you have choices.


After a loss, you may feel powerless and out of control. It may seem like you don’t have a choice or a say in what happens to you or what you can do. This is normal and expected after a loss. However, it is important to remember that you do have choices. The choices may not be apparent right away, but they are there. As part of the preparation, ask yourself what choices you do have. Some of these might feel trivial in comparison to what you might be feeling but regaining a sense of control (no matter how small it may seem) will help you feel better. It is also important to remember that you and only you can determine what you want to do during the holidays. You might get unsolicited advice from others telling what you ‘should’ be doing. Examples of choices include:


Who you want to spend the holidays with

What you want your holiday to look like

Whether you want to cook or order food


This is also especially important when there are others who are going through the same loss. Everyone will grieve differently, therefore everyone will have different needs as they navigate the holidays. Sharing with them how you are choosing to spend this season will ensure that there is the clarity with those expectations. Because of this, it is important to compromise. Maybe your sister does not want to participate in a particular tradition, but you do. Find a way to compromise so that both of your needs are met.


Tip #2- Prioritize communication with others


For many, the idea of talking to others during the holidays might feel daunting. But communicating your thoughts, feelings, and choices about how you are going to spend the holidays will not only make the holidays less chaotic but will also help make sure you aren’t isolating completely from your support system.


This is also especially important when there are others who are going through the same loss. Everyone will grieve differently, therefore everyone will have different needs as they navigate the holidays. Sharing with them how you are choosing to spend this season will ensure that there is clarity with those expectations. Because of this, it is important to compromise. Maybe your sister does not want to participate in a particular tradition, but you do. Find a way to compromise so that both of your needs are met.


Tip #3- Make time for self-care


Self-care will look different for everyone, but it is important to prioritize. Reflect on what self-care might look like for you, and make sure you include:


Time to rest

Delegating responsibilities so you can focus on yourself and your needs

Scheduling time to eat

Accepting the help of others


If you are looking for more tips and guidance on coping with grief during the holidays, make sure you download my free workbook on Coping with Grief, Mourning, and Loss during the Holidays. Click here to download this workbook.

If you are looking for additional support and therapy, and you are located in California, schedule a free 15-minute consultation to see if we are a good fit. You can do so by clicking here.