Coping with Grief during the Holiday Season

“What am I going to do if something reminds me of Grandpa?”

“Who is going to help me decorate the Christmas tree this year?”

“I don’t have the energy or the desire to do the things I usually do during the holidays.”

If you are someone who has lost a loved one, these may be some of the thoughts that are running through your mind.

Although the holidays are usually associated with happiness, joy, smiles and laughter for most individuals, they can also bring up a lot of heavy emotions such as sadness, anger, and frustration. If you are someone who has lost someone close to you, you may be experiencing dread

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, Ramadan, Kwanza, New Year’s, and other holidays can be very difficult for those who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Memories can be one of the most prevalent reminders of our loss.

Grief is often multifaceted and unpredictable. It ebbs and flows where its intensity changes at the drop of a dime. There can be many triggers of grief such as conversations that mention your loved one’s name, seeing old photos, or engaging in traditions that you once did in previous years with the person you lost. As the holiday season approaches, it is important to cope ahead and prepare and educate yourself with ways to healthily cope with grief.

Tips for dealing with grief during the holidays:

  • Rely on your support system: Surround yourself with people who love and support you. By opening up and expressing how you may be feeling as well as being around those who understand how you are feeling can help you feel more at ease and bring you some comfort.
  • Avoid canceling the holiday: There may be an overwhelming temptation to cancel the holiday or to not show up to the planned get together or event. It is important to do your best to attend in order to ensure you are not isolating yourself from others. By spending time with others, it can help balance the grieving with social interactions.
  • Take care of your physical and mental health: Do your best to avoid using alcohol and other mood-altering drugs in order to “self-medicate”. Physical exercise and journaling are some other great ideas to combat depressive symptoms.
  • Create new traditions or rituals: It is important to sit down with friends and/or family to discuss how you all want the holidays to look this year. There may be something that you eliminate and replace with a new tradition. Examples of new traditions or rituals may include: light a candle in honor of your loved one, play your loved one’s favorite music or favorite game, or create a memory box.

During this holiday season, remember that you are not alone. Be sure you are honoring your individual grieving process. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and everyone’s experience may look different. It is important to check in with yourself both mentally and physically throughout the process and do what is best for you.

If you are struggling with overwhelming stress and/or anxiety, along with all the other emotions that come with the holiday season, seek help from a mental health professional. Happy Holidays to you from us at BWG!

Madeline McDowell, LPCC
Therapist and College Mental Wellness IOP Director
The Behavioral Wellness Group