Coping with Grief During the Holidays

Grief is our natural way of expressing the deep pain and loss we experience when a loved one passes. We grieve to both honor our loved ones, but also to heal. Did you know that every human culture that has ever lived has had some ritual for grieving their loved ones? Grief is a natural, normal, healthy, and human experience. It is instinctual in us as human beings. When we consider grief in this way, it can be said that to grieve is a human right; a beautiful privilege that we have been given in this life.

The holidays also speak to a right we have as humans, which is to celebrate. The purpose of the holidays is usually to celebrate traditions and religious practices and occasions. Presumably, we would have celebrated that occasion with our loved ones in the past and naturally feel the weight of their absence during this moment, when they are gone. It is no wonder we tend to struggle around the holidays when we have lost a loved one.

How can we possibly celebrate when we are feeling so much pain? How can we enjoy the experience again without their presence?

Here are some reminders and tips to keep in mind to manage your grief during the holidays.

  1. Remember to allow grief.

Grief manifests itself differently for everyone. There is no perfect way to grieve and it is not helpful for us to hold ourselves to expectations of what this should or should not look like. When we avoid our grief, it leaks out in unhealthy ways. If we can remember that grieving is healthy, we can allow our grief to flow in whatever way it needs to as much as we can. 

  1.  Traditions are healing.

Finding a way to commemorate your loved one during the holidays (especially with others who feel the pain of the loss with you) can be incredibly healing and a helpful way to still celebrate your loved one.

Here are a few examples:

  • Play and sing along to your loved one’s favorite music
  • Play your loved one’s favorite game
  • Take time to make your loved one’s favorite dish
  • Have everyone speak a toast and say one thing you cherished about your loved one
  • Have a moment of silence and reflect on past memories
  • Have everyone go around and speak about a funny memory with your loved one
  • Create ornaments together that include pictures of your loved one
  • Visit the graveside together
  • Play a trivia game with details about your loved one’s life
  • Look through pictures together

  1. Emotions are not exclusive.

Holding space for our emotions is a powerful coping skill. We can carry and express our pain while enjoying and cherishing the precious moments with our loved ones who are still here. We can allow ourselves to cry and feel the anguish of our grief and join in laughter and song with our friends and family. We can experience our heartbreak and hold those who remain near and dear. We can mourn the life lost while cherishing the life we have.

These are all human experiences and can be felt simultaneously. The first year of holidays after a loved one passes can be especially difficult. If you’re struggling during the holidays, please reach out, we are here to offer support.