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Navigating Grief During the Holidays

Imagining the holidays after the loss of a loved one can be challenging. While it’s true that they will never be exactly the same, there are a few recommendations to make them more manageable and help you grow on your healing journey.

When you have lost someone you love, the world may seem to lack its celebratory qualities – especially surrounding the holidays. The loneliness a person is feeling can often feel more isolating than usual. While there is no “one size fits all” approach to dealing with grief during this time, there are a few tools that may help.

Externalize the Loss

What does this mean? Set a time and place to recognize and remember your loved one. This may look like lighting a candle in their honor, having friends and family share a story about them, make a donation in their honor, or even creating a tribute online or in your home. Whatever you choose to do, no matter how big or small, it is the act of remembering the individual that is important.

Have a Backup Plan

You may have reservations about attending a holiday gathering so have a backup plan in place. If it doesn’t feel right being there or if it’s simply too much, give yourself permission to leave. Find an alternative – even if that means just going home to watch a movie.

Try Something New

Imagining the first holiday after a loss can be difficult. If it seems too overwhelming to continue holiday traditions as they were, then try something different.

  • Cancel the holiday! If you are in a place where celebrating is just going through the motions, take the year off. That may sound crazy, but holidays come every year and you can resume when you’re ready.
  • Create a new tradition. Take time to think about the things you enjoy about the holiday and eliminate the things you don’t. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate – and even better, you are allowed to change your mind (even a few times). You decide what is right for you.

“Life is full of grief, to exactly the degree we allow ourselves to love other people.”

Orson Scott Card, Shadow of the Giant

Feeling as though you will never enjoy the holiday again is natural. While they will never be exactly the same, most people find that over time as new traditions form, the holiday spirit begins to emerge again. During this time it is important to remember to be gentle with yourself, do not do anything that doesn’t serve you or bring you joy, and allow time to feel and express your feelings.

Grief doesn’t go away, we learn to grow around it, so always be present in the loss whether around the holidays or any given day throughout the year. Finding meaning in loss is as individual as we are as humans, so give yourself grace and continue to grow in the journey.