Coping with Loss During the Holidays

Following the loss of a loved one, holiday traditions may be more painful than joyful. Many things can trigger memories that seem to amplify your loss. How do you begin to move forward while still looking backward? Here are a few guidelines to have a healing holiday season.

Set your own schedule and pace

Trust yourself in determining what you are ready to do. Try not to be influenced by the suggestions or pressures of others. Take the time you need. Don’t try to run at holiday speed. Slow down. Don’t over-extend or over-commit yourself.

Reduce your to-do list

Don’t try to do everything you used to do. Cross out the most stressful tasks. Even the most sacred of traditions, such as a family dinner, greeting cards, or tree decorating, can be set aside for now. If something brings you joy, but you can’t get it done on your own, like putting up outside lights, ask for help.

Change things up

Try altering your routine this year. Go out to eat instead of cooking at home. Gather friends or family at a different time of day or different day to celebrate a holiday. Move a regular event to a new location. Change the menu. Convert a sit-down feast to a potluck or just serve dessert and coffee.

Pay tribute

Find a simple way to recognize your beloved family member or friend. Light a candle. Set a place setting. Hang a stocking. Post a photo. Display a bouquet. Tell stories. Share a prayer. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Let people know how you want to recognize your loved one.

Take care of yourself

Make sure you get enough rest. Take time to eat right, stay hydrated, and enjoy your normal physical activities. Don’t let yourself get worn out by “keeping busy.” Keep yourself healthy by getting a flu shot, keeping your distance from those with a cold, cough, or flu, and wash your hands frequently.

Keep the faith

Religious holiday celebrations can help many people facing loss. Maintain your visits to your house of worship or re-discover your faith to find inspiration and support.

Remember there will be good days and bad days. When you are having trouble, reach out to those closest to you for help. Keep your primary care provider informed about your progress. If your grieving interferes with your day-to-day living for weeks or months at a time, talk to your primary care provider about your options. Some people benefit from grief counseling and other treatments. Proper support and care can help you manage painful thoughts and emotions and help you to heal.

Source: Helping Yourself Heal During the Holiday Season, 2016. Alan D. Wofelt, PhD

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