Coping with grief during the holidays

Try these 12 ideas to cope with grief during the holiday season

Grief is difficult enough on its own, but it seems to be magnified during the holiday season. Your mind is full of memories of past celebrations, and you’re overwhelmed by emotions when you realize you’ll be carrying on traditions without your loved one. It’s exhausting – emotionally and physically.
One of the best things you can do to cope with grief during the holidays is to take care of yourself. Whether that’s as simple as getting more sleep or as involved as volunteering, do whatever helps you maintain your health and keep your spirits up. Here are 12 ideas for coping with grief during the holidays.

1. Give yourself time to grieve

The holidays are so hectic that you can get caught in the whirlwind and never decompress. It’s important to allow yourself time each day to grieve, so give yourself the gift of time to process your emotions.

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2. Allow yourself to celebrate

You’ve been invited to a holiday party and want to get dressed up, but you’re unsure whether that “looks bad.” It may seem contradictory, but you can still grieve and have a good time. You don’t have to feel guilty for celebrating.

3. Join a grief support group

The holidays can seem especially lonely when you’re coping with grief. You can avoid isolation by reaching out for grief support. You don’t have to join an in-person group if that’s not your style. You can get support in a variety of ways. Join an online forum, try a one-on-one grief counseling session online, or text a hotline for support.

Grief support is available in more ways than ever

4. Help others

Volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter not only helps others, but it takes the focus off of your grief — at least for a little while. Studies show that being generous can actually be good for your brain and reduce stress levels.

5. Hold a commemoration

You can light a candle, ask for a moment of silence, meditate, recite a poem, or share stories. Do whatever you think best honors your loved one.

6. Shop online

If you’re dreading the crowds but want to get presents for everybody, shop for deals from home. Get yourself a cup of coffee, cozy up with your computer and shopping list, and purchase gifts in your PJs.

7. Don’t be afraid to leave early

You did it. You made yourself dress up and go to the holiday party. But once you’re there, you’re overcome with emotions. That’s OK. Give yourself grace and allow yourself to leave early. Your friends will understand.

8. Visit your loved one

Plan a visit to your loved one’s gravesite to feel like you’re including them in the holiday. Bake a special treat to eat or bring an article of clothing that reminds you of them. You can leave a wreath or other holiday-themed memento.

9. Cut down on social media

Scrolling through Facebook posts of happy families in front of their holiday trees or skiing in the Alps can be depressing. Turn off your mobile device or step away from your computer for a while. Instead, dig out holiday photos of your loved one and remember your happy times with them.

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10. Send a holiday text to 10 friends

You should receive at least a few replies and well wishes, which can be a great mood booster when you’re missing your loved one.

11. Turn your hobby into a gift

If you like to knit, make a hat, gloves, or scarf in your loved one’s size and donate them to a shelter. If knitting isn’t your thing, consider making something that reminds you of your loved one and giving it away. You can make jewelry with a special color of beads, a card with a favorite holiday scene, or a tree ornament featuring a beloved character — anything that gets your creative juices flowing.

12. Write a holiday letter to your loved one

Research suggests that writing down your feelings can relieve stress. You can free write whatever pops in your head or create a formal letter detailing what you did during the year and how much you missed him or her. You can put the letter away for one year and read it the next holiday season to remind yourself how far you’ve come in your grieving process.
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Photo credit: iStock

Find grief support

Search for grief support resources, such as in-person groups, online forums, and phone hotlines, available in your area.


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