Grief and the Holidays

Tiffany Eisenbraun, Grief Counselor

This time of year can be very bittersweet for those of us who are experiencing grief, especially the first year following the loss of a loved one. Memories of good times at the holiday season can remind us of our loss. Watching others celebrate when we feel intense emotions of grief,loneliness, and sad can be painful and often leaving us feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to process these emotions. Below are some tips to help make the holidays a little easier this year.

  • Set reasonable expectations of yourself. Don’t try to do everything you have done in previous years or see everyone.
  • Know your limits. If you need to step away for a few moments to process your grief.
  • Take time for yourself for relaxation and remembrance of your loved one.
  • Create a new tradition that fits your current needs.
  • Plan ahead for who may take over certain duties such as who will carve the turkey or hand out the presents. Give yourself permission to delegate tasks.
  • Practice self-care. This includes getting plenty of rest, drinking enough water, and taking time for ourselves if needed.
  • Honor the memory of your loved one.
    • Light a candle in their honor
    • Place a special ornament on the tree
    • Talk about a special holiday memory
  • Surround yourself with people who love you and support you.
  • Tell others what you really need and ask for their understanding if you withdraw from a certain activity.
  • Acknowledge to yourself that this occasion may be painful at times
  • a grief support group or attend a counseling session to process your emotions surrounding the holiday.
  • Remember that it is okay to laugh and enjoy yourself
  • Give yourself permission to cut back on holiday decorations, preparations, and gift-giving.

Remember, this time can be a time filled with a range of emotions. Allow yourself to feel those emotions and give yourself time to process your grief. The holidays, at first, may feel like that new sweater that feels a little itchy at first. As each holiday passes you will become more aware of what your needs are around this time of year. These tips do not apply to the “major” holidays either. They can apply to Easter, Valentine’s Day, Birthdays, Anniversaries, etc.

Books on Grief and the Holidays:

James Miller, How Will I Get Through the Holidays? Twelve Ideas for Those Whose Loved One Has Died

Drs. Clarence Tucker and Cliff Davis, Holiday Blues—A Self-Help Manual on Grief Through the Holidays

Roper and Sons will be offering their grief groups throughout the holiday season, including a remembrance service on December 10, 2017 from 2:00-3:30. Please join us to honor your loved one at this time. Grief counselors will be there if you feel you need to process any difficult emotions.


Coping with Grief During the Holidays | VITAS Hospice

Zamore, F., Leutenberg, E. A., & Brodsky, A. L. (2008). Griefwork: healing from loss: reproducible, interactive, and educational handouts. Duluth, MN: Whole Person Associates.