5 Tips for Coping with Grief During the Holidays

The holidays are usually seen as a joyful time spent with loved ones: good food, strong traditions, and happy memories abound. But if you have recently lost a loved one, this time of year just doesn’t seem as bright and beautiful as it once did.

It can be hard to face the onslaught of Christmas trees when carefully placing the ornaments was always Mom’s job. Latkes don’t taste the same without Bubbe there to peel and shred the potatoes. And lighting the Kwanzaa candles doesn’t have the same meaning it did when Dad was the one at the Kinara.

But the holidays are upon us, whether we are ready or not. Here are some tips for embracing and coping with your grief during the holiday season: 

  1. Plan ahead & delegate. You DON’T have to do it all, and definitely don’t have to do it all alone. Accept offers of help, whether it’s with preparing a meal, babysitting, or decorating. Or, ask others to pitch in with baking cookies, wrapping gifts, or cleaning.
  2. Prepare for parties. The holidays are full of social obligations, and it’s OK to skip out if you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you do feel up to attending, make sure you’re prepared with both a conversation strategy (“I don’t feel comfortable discussing this right now. Tell me about your little ones.”) and an exit strategy (drive yourself, carpool with an understanding friend, or download the Uber app in advance).
  3. Trim down your traditions. If Dad always carved the ham on Christmas Eve, or Mom always spun the dreidel on the first night of Hannukah, these traditions can feel empty without them there. Find new ways to observe the holidays in a way that won’t feel lacking.
  4. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room. Take time to remember your loved one. Set aside a time to share joyful memories with friends and family. You won’t feel so alone in your grieving when sharing with others.
  5. Do allow yourself to grieve. Everyone processes and grieves differently. Respect and embrace your own grieving process. Take however long you need to cry or be alone; there is no wrong way to grieve.

It can be hard to face the holidays knowing that this year will be immeasurably different from years past. We hope these tips help you to cope with your grief and find a small bit of joy during this time of year.