Grief in the holidays

The holidays can be the most difficult time of the year when you are grieving the loss of someone important to you. Memories of past celebrations with family members or friends who are no longer here can magnify feelings of loss, and you may feel unsure about how, or even if, to celebrate this year.

Grief at any time is tiring and challenging. As the holiday season approaches, you may need to pay more attention to yourself and ask, “What do I most need now?”

Grief has a timing of its own, sometimes appearing – or disappearing – when we least expect it. If you experience this ebb and flow of feelings – even years after your loved one died – understand that it is common and a normal aspect of the grieving process.

It can be helpful to share your concerns and feelings with someone. Let people know what is difficult for you, and accept offers of help. If ever there was a time to treat yourself like a cherished friend, this is it.

Here are a few tips for coping with grief over the holidays:

Decide how you want to spend the holiday.

Allow yourself to think about what you most need and want to do. It’s OK if you want to change things completely, just a little, or not at all.

Be flexible about holiday traditions.

Holidays are often spent with the people we are closest to and you are missing someone important. Without the person you’ve lost, you may not be able to do all the holiday things you’d normally do. You might reconsider activities that aren’t essential, and ask for help with anything you’d like to continue.

Plan your activities in advance.

Before the holiday season is in full swing, make plan that can be adjusted according to your needs. Let people who are important to you know what your plans are and if you are open to invitations.

Take time to care for yourself.

Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel and to spend time alone or with others as needed. Rest and breathe deeply. Try to add some physical activity and spend time in nature.

Give to others.

Sometimes the sadness and loneliness of grief during the holidays can be lightened a little by caring for others. Consider hosting a pre- or post-holiday gathering for friends and family or perhaps volunteering with your charity of choice.

Do something to remember your loved one.

You may want to continue a favourite tradition or start something new: take a walk in a special place, create a special ornament or decoration, or perhaps make a holiday food item that your loved one particularly enjoyed.

See more Victoria Hospice resources for coping with and supporting others in bereavement.