Grief Support and 10 Tips for Living With Loss and Holiday Stress

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.

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Here are 10 ideas others have found helpful for making the holidays less painful after the loss of a loved one:

  1. Do something different this year — consider going to a hotel or visiting a neighbor for dinner.
  2. Look for activities that make you smile — build a snowman, watch a funny movie or spend time with children.
  3. Buy a gift your deceased loved one would have liked and give it to someone in need.
  4. Attend some holiday programs and worship services with music. Sit near an exit to allow you to leave for a while if you need to.
  5. Accept invitations with the understanding that you can leave early or cancel if needed. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s also okay to say, “I don’t have it in me this year to attend, but I appreciate the invitation.”
  6. Let nature calm you by taking a walk or putting your reading chair by a window.
  7. Change some traditions like the time or place for a gift exchange or holiday meal. Find meaningful ways to honor your loved one’s memory, such as setting a place for them at the table, making their favorite foods, toasting their memory or hanging a special ornament.
  8. Ask someone to help with or do overwhelming holiday tasks.
  9. Shop by catalog to avoid crowded malls and the sensory overload of holiday music and decorations.
  10. 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.

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. To learn more, or to download free grief support resources for adults or children, visit

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 at EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.