Grief and the Holidays

by | Nov 9, 2023

Laughter, family, decorations, and special meals fill the holidays. However, when a significant person in your life has died, the holidays can be exhausting, with painful reminders of all the many things that have been lost. How do you navigate the holiday season when you are in grief? 

You can say no 

One way is to be kind to yourself and choose what you can and cannot do this holiday season. If you do not feel like decorating, don’t decorate. If you do not feel like visiting family and friends, don’t visit them. You decide what you can and cannot do. Feel free not to send cards, to skip gift giving, or do send cards and talk about your loved one. People will understand. You can spend time with the family and friends who have been supportive and understanding to you in your grief. Ask for help if you need help. Remember, too, that you can always change your mind. If you plan to attend an event but do not have the energy on that day, cancel. has a helpful checklist for holiday activities. You can check off the items you want to include this holiday season, and determine those activities you do not want to do, such as holiday cards, decorating, shopping, and more. 

Traditions or no traditions 

Traditions are important. Some traditions, however, may be too difficult to continue after someone has died. Maybe mom always decorated a Christmas tree, and that is now too painful for you. Skip the tree, but perhaps you can start a new tradition going forward. Maybe the traditions give you comfort, so continue the traditions. If fixing a big meal is too much work, but you want to continue that tradition, ask for help. If possible, let others take on the work of the holidays so you do not have that added stress. 

Visit the cemetery 

Another way of navigating your grief is to honor and remember your loved one who is no longer here. Visit the cemetery where your loved one is buried. This time of year, we see Christmas wreaths and various holiday decorations adorning the graves of loved ones. Spend time talking with your loved one, remembering past holidays. Crying and laughing with them can be comforting for many people. Bring a friend with you, who can listen and share in those memories. 

Remember your loved one 

The following are suggestions from on other ways of remembering your loved one this time of year: 

  • A prayer before the Holiday dinner, about your loved one. 
  • Light a candle for your loved one. 
  • Create an online tribute for them. 
  • Share a favorite story about your loved one. 
  • Have everyone tell a funny story about your loved one. 
  • At your place of worship, remember them in a prayer. 
  • Chat online about them. 

Coping skills from 

  • Deep breathing
  • Taking a walk 
  • Journaling 
  • Listening to music 
  • Practicing yoga 
  • Saying positive affirmations 

Losing a loved one changes your life, and the grief that comes with that loss is especially challenging during holidays when people typically are happy and excited. Know that you need to grieve, and give yourself a lot of self-care during this stressful season. No right or wrong way exists to navigate your grief. Plan ahead for the holidays, reach out for support, and take the time you need to grieve, remember, and celebrate the person you have loved and lost.