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Coping With Grief During The Holidays

I never really understood what it meant to grieve during the holidays until it happened to my own family.  My father had a massive heart attack that took his life just days before Christmas. My entire family was in anguish. From then on, Christmas has never been quite the same.   

The holidays bring meaning to certain days, and we bring much significance back to them.  When you have lost someone special, your world loses this celebratory quality. The sadness feels worse and the loneliness cuts deep.  While, no matter how much you would like to, pretending the grief doesn’t exist is not the answer. Instead of avoiding the feeling of grief, it is much better to lean into it.  Incorporating your lost loved one into the holiday can be beneficial and emotionally healing.

Ways to Externalize the Loss

There are ways to keep the memory of a lost loved one alive during the holidays.  One approach is to share favorite stories about them or remember the good times that you once had.  Offering a prayer during a holiday meal, or lighting a candle in remembrance are also traditions that can be built in order to celebrate the time that you shared here on this earth.  Creating an online tribute is an additional way to commemorate the meaning and collective experiences that made the relationship so special.


An alternative plan for the holidays is a way in which you can take the pressure off of yourself if you find that a certain party or celebration is just too much to handle.  If going to a Christmas Day or Christmas Eve event with family or friends is too agonizing, give yourself other options. You have permission to do something else if you find yourself just going through the motions. This could include going to a movie, going to a meaningful place, or going through a photo album to reminisce. You are allowed to do whatever you need to do to get through this difficult season and find peace. Your feelings matter too!


The holiday season is the hardest time to navigate when dealing with grief and loss.  There is no right or wrong way to handle this time of year. Be patient with yourself, as well as those around you who might not completely understand what you are dealing with.  Do not overcommit. Above all, be kind to yourself. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

If you are having difficulties with grief, call Amy Wine Counseling Center at 832-421-8714.


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