Coping With Grief at the Holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time, but they can be stressful at the best of times. For those of us who are experiencing grief, they can rather be a nightmare. Whether you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one or the death of a dream, facing the holidays when you heart is broken can be painful. It doesn’t matter what the loss is, or how long ago it occurred, the holidays can bring the pain back with a vengeance. A few weeks ago I shared 21 ways to work through grief. Here are several more ways that I have found to be helpful over the years. Many of these are specific to holidays. 

  1. Understand that your grief is unique and not everyone grieves in the same way. 
  2. Know that there is no time limit on grief. It doesn’t matter how long ago the loss was. Your grief is still valid. 
  3. Skip the alcohol over the holidays. 
  4. Reevaluate your traditions. 
  5. Skip the holidays altogether if that’s what feels right for you. 
  6. Go all in if you’re up to it. 
  7. Make a plan for the big day(s). No matter how much or little you plan to celebrate, have a definite plan for the actual holiday itself. 
  8. Start a new tradition. 
  9. Make a donation in your loved one’s name. (Pet shelter if your loss is a pet, spouse’s favorite charity, etc.)
  10. Volunteer in your loved one’s name. 
  11. Drink lots of water. 
  12. Eat well. 
  13. Get enough sleep. 
  14. Rest. Rest. Rest. And then, rest some more. 
  15. Communicate with your friends and family about what you do and don’t want to do. 
  16. Be firm in setting your own boundaries.
  17. Light a candle in memory of your loved one. 
  18. Know and recognize the difference between grief and depression. 
  19. Seek out help from a therapist or grief coach if you need it. 
  20. If you plan to have a holiday meal, include your loved one’s favorite dish- even if it isn’t a traditional holiday food. 
  21. Reach out to people you regret having lost touch with. 
  22. Journal about your memories. 
  23. Journal about your feelings. 
  24. Use the holidays as an opportunity to donate your loved one’s clothes or other belongings. 
  25. Feel free to skip decorating. 
  26. Feel free to skip gift giving. 
  27. Feel free to skip holiday gatherings. 
  28. Don’t feel guilty about skipping things. 
  29. Go see a movie. 
  30. Spend the day at the spa. 
  31. Splurge on a gift for yourself. 
  32. Ask for help when you need it. 
  33. Graciously accept help when it is offered. 
  34. Spend less time around stressful people. 
  35. Spend more time with people who help lighten your stress. 
  36. Cry when you need to. 
  37. Understand that it’s ok to be happy. 
  38. Laugh when you feel like it. 
  39. Have a moment of silence at the holiday gathering in memory of your loved one. 
  40. Have each person present at the holiday gathering share a favorite memory of your loved one. 
  41. Skip sending holiday cards if it’s too much for you. 
  42. Practice self care. 
  43. Meditate. Pray. 
  44. Plan ahead who will do the tasks at the holiday gathering that your loved one usually did. For example, if your loved one carved the turkey, make a plan ahead of time for someone else to do it. 
  45. Put a memorial ornament on the tree for your loved one. 
  46. Dedicate a Chanukah candle to your loved one. 
  47. Make a memory box and have everyone fill it with memories of your loved one. 
  48. Gather some friends and create a memory chain- you know, those paper chains from childhood. Write a memory on each strip of paper and then make it into a new link. 
  49. Watch your loved one’s favorite holiday movie. 
  50. Buy a gift for your loved one and donate it to charity. 
  51. Hang a stocking for your loved one and fill it with memories. 
  52. Accept that the loss leaves your with an altered future. 
  53. Make new plans for the future. 
  54. Honor the loss of a lifelong dream by having a burial ceremony. Write down your dream and bury it. 
  55. Clear out a day or two and just have free time for nothing. 
  56. Talk about your loss. No matter what the loss is, be sure to talk about it. Find those people who will listen to you no matter how many times you talk about it. 
  57. Get out in nature. Go for a walk. Sit under a tree. It doesn’t matter. Just get outside and enjoy the fresh air. 
  58. Forgive yourself. 
  59. Forgive your loved one. 
  60. Forgive the circumstances that lead to your loss. 
  61. Choose hope. 
  62. Dream. 
  63. Change where you celebrate the holidays. 
  64. Travel somewhere new. 
  65. Visit your loved one’s grave. 
  66. If you haven’t spread your loved one’s ashes, the holidays may be a meaningful time to do so. 
  67. Drive yourself to holiday events so you can leave when you want to. 
  68. Leave an empty seat and set a place for your loved one at the holiday table. 
  69. Invite someone who has nowhere to go to join you for a holiday meal. 
  70. Find a support group to go to so you spend time with others who are also grieving. 
  71. Find something every day to be grateful for. 
  72. Exercise. 
  73. Don’t feel like you have to do all the things. 
  74. Do only what feels right to you. 
  75. Attend a “Blue Holiday” service for those who can’t do all the joy at this time of year. 

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