Handling the Holidays After a Loss

If you, your family or a dear friend is facing the holidays after the loss of a loved one, the usual seasonal music, lights, foods and festivities may be touching a saddened or anxious heart this year.

Following are options that may be helpful to you – whether you are living with loss yourself or supporting a grieving friend or family member.

If you are coping with feelings of grief and loss during the holiday season:

  • List what you’ve enjoyed the most in past years and wish to continue; list what you’ve enjoyed the least and could eliminate or change.
  • Change some traditions, like the time or place for the holiday meal or the gift exchange.
  • Do something different this year like going to a resort for the holidays, or accept the neighbors dinner invitation.
  • Keep all the traditions but ask someone to help with or do overwhelming tasks.
  • Exchange wants and needs with those you care about.
  • Schedule special activities and events of the season with supportive individuals.
  • Attend some holiday programs and worship services with music. Sitting near an exit would allow you to leave for a while or early if you need to.
  • Accept invitations with the stipulation that you can leave early or cancel if necessary.
  • Buy tickets for an event you’d like to attend and give one as a gift to a person you’d like to spend time with.
  • Talk about the deceased in conversations with others in the hope that they’d be encouraged to do so, too.
  • 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 will not diminish when you experience joy.
  • Let nature calm you by taking a walk in the woods or by putting your reading chair by the window.
  • Look for activities that bring smiles and laughter to you, like building a snowman, watching a funny movie or spending time with children.
  • Contemplate the origin and meaning of the holiday as well as your present life situation.

If you’re supporting a grieving loved one:

  • Behave naturally. Show genuine concern.
  • Offer hugs and comfort as appropriate.
  • Listen. Don’t offer advice, clichés or quick solutions. Grieving is a process with its own timeline.
  • Being supportive means helping your loved one feel safe in experiencing his or her feelings – whatever they may be. Don’t try to distract your loved one from the intensity of his or her emotions.
  • Ask if you can share your special memories about the person who died.
  • Offer specific help with holiday tasks, like baking, purchasing gifts, cleaning or running errands.
  • Spend quiet time together watching a movie, getting coffee or enjoying nature.

Get support.

You can always turn to EveryStep Home Care when you or a loved one is living with chronic disease or recovering from illness or injury. Did you know that EveryStep also offers programs that provide emotional healing and support following the loss of a loved one?

EveryStep offers free grief support groups are open to anyone in the community. Some support groups are informal, monthly gatherings; some are more structured in nature and offer an educational component; and other groups are facilitated by peers or address specific topics. To find options near you and helpful resources, visit our website or contact an EveryStep location near you.