Coping With Loss During the Holidays

Grieving over the loss of your loved one can seem overwhelming — even more so during the holiday season. Here are some ways to help get through it.
By Vern Miranda, co-founder of

Holidays are a painful time of year for many peopleThe passing of a loved one can leave a large hole in your life and leave you feeling empty and alone. Family events and seasonal gatherings can amplify that pain,
reminding you everywhere you look that the person you loved so deeply is absent. The loss is crushing, to be sure, yet those same rituals you enjoyed so much before your loss don’t have to seem lifeless and dark now — because they can help you rekindle your spirit and get back to living, all while remembering the wonderful memories of what the your loved one’s life meant to you.

Here are a few suggestions on how to cope with your grief during the holiday season that will hopefully lift the weight of sorrow from your shoulders:

  • Participate only in what you feel up to. Family and friends who are trying to lift your spirits will offer invitations to activities, traditions and
    events to let you know that you are loved and not forgotten. As good-hearted as these intentions are, don’t feel obligated to participate if you just don’t feel up to it.
    Your grieving process is yours alone and there is no set timetable. Make your apologies and heal. They’ll understand.
  • Joyful or sad, don’t feel guilty about your feelings. As mentioned above, every person who suffers profound loss such as yours deals with it in his or
    her own way. Whatever you’re feeling at this time of year, those feelings are yours. There will be ups, and there will be downs. You try to repress sadness by avoiding it.
    Or, your tears will be unstoppable. You might even surprise yourself by feeling joy. No matter. These are your feelings; they belong to you alone, so don’t feel guilt over them.
  • Take joy and comfort from children. Many holiday seasons focus greatly on children, especially the young ones, so it’s helpful to remember that they may not
    understand your absence. They might even feel that you don’t like them anymore when nothing could be further from the truth. Youngsters can bring joy by their presence and you
    may find the inner peace and strength by joining them for a limited time. Then bow out when you feel you’ve enjoyed enough. As mentioned earlier, do only that which you feel up to.
  • Speak honestly with those around you. Family and friends may say they “know how you feel.” Perhaps they do. Or perhaps they think they do. Only by communicating
    freely with them about your emotions and how you’d like to handle the holidays this year will they truly know. And if you do decide to join others, recruit a trusted friend or family
    member to go with you for support and have a “Plan B” in case you need to depart quickly.
  • Downsize your activities. Much of your energy will be taken by grieving, so it’s all right to scale back on how you participate during the holidays.
    If you’re not up to decorating the entire house, minimize what you do. If you simply can’t face the idea of addressing and mailing holiday cards at this time, try electronic
    versions that are just as nice and a lot less work. Family gatherings can be limited to small affairs with only those closest to you. Set realistic expectations, and be comfortable with whatever you do.
  • New activities can reduce dread. Following the loss of a loved one, the holidays will never be the same again. And anticipation of an approaching
    holiday may be more painful than the actual holiday itself, as your mind will be flooded with “what might happen” scenarios. To alleviate this, give some thought to new
    activities in the weeks preceding a holiday that can have you looking forward to its arrival. And if you find yourself more comforted by that which is traditional that’s fine as well.
  • Help others. It’s amazing how helping others in need can give you purpose and lessen your sorrow. You can volunteer to work at a shelter or soup kitchen.
    Spend time with children at group homes or with patients at a hospital who are without family to be with. Perhaps your loved one had a favorite charity or organization; honor
    them by contributing your energies to that cause and help make a difference in the community that organization serves.
  • Simply opt out this season. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you think it will be simply too much to participate, let your family and friends know in
    advance. Try to have some other activity planned that will give you comfort, and let those who love you know that you’re “okay.”

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