Five Tips for Handling Grief During the Holidays

Grief During the Holidays

The holiday season can be especially difficult for someone grieving the death of a loved one. The activities and traditions that have brought you joy in the past may seem to accentuate the sadness you feel now. EveryStep Grief & Loss Services reminds you that there are no “right” ways to move through your grief during the holidays. It’s important to be patient with yourself and find what will make the holiday season more manageable for you.

EveryStep spiritual care counselor Gordon Hawkins says those who have lost a loved one commonly try to recreate what holidays were like when that person was alive. “Whether it was the recipe of something Grandma always made or recreating traditions, it’s important to have reasonable expectations of what things are going to look like and to not put so much pressure on themselves.”

It’s also important to make a plan, according to EveryStep bereavement counselor Denise Nahnsen, who says knowing you may be emotionally tender and knowing how you’ll handle that is better than pretending you are not grieving. “For instance, you know you are going to the traditional get together, but you allow yourself an opportunity to step away or leave early if needed. Just having a plan for what you’ll do if you are having trouble helps.”

Here are five more ideas others have found helpful for making the holidays less painful after the loss of a loved one:

  1. Look for activities that make you smile — build a snowman, watch a funny movie or spend time with children.
  2.  Buy a gift your deceased loved one would have liked and give it to someone in need.
  3. Let nature calm you by taking a walk or putting your reading chair by a window.
  4. Ask someone to help with or do overwhelming holiday tasks.
  5. Avoid viewing life as “awful” during this season. Anticipating precious as well as difficult moments is a realistic expectation. Your love for the person who died does not diminish when you experience joy.

Hawkins says whether grieving during the holidays or anytime, the journey is personal. “Invite people into it as you need to, but if you just need to be alone and reflect, that's okay. Make it your journey, make it what you need it to be. And then if you're coming alongside someone else, just give them that space. Just be there for them and with them.”

Nahn also encourages individuals to be thankful. “Grief and love are two sides of the same coin. So, we grieve so deeply because we loved so deeply. Your grief speaks to your love and the love is something to definitely be thankful for. So, while it’s going to be a different holiday with moments of grief and bursts of tears, maybe you can find a nugget of thankfulness in the fact that you had such a great love in that relationship.”

EveryStep Grief & Loss Services offers a variety of grief support opportunities provided at no cost for individuals and families of all ages in communities around Iowa.

Learn More & Download Grief Support Resources

If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946 or complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s website here. EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.