The holiday season can be an especially tough time for those who have lost a loved one. Regardless of how recently your loss occurred, the widespread joy surrounding the holiday season often causes additional sadness for those who are grieving. It can be hard to enjoy the celebrations with loved ones when someone is no longer there to be part of the festivities. 

Though there is no simple way to banish grief, nor is there one right way to deal with the difficult emotions you likely feel, there are a number of ways to make the holiday season a bit easier for yourself.

1.    Don’t force yourself to partake in activities that will be too emotionally taxing

For many people, the holidays involve partaking in events and traditions with family and friends. When grief strikes during the holidays, some of the activities that used to bring joy may be too painful to partake in.

That’s ok.

Be honest with yourself about what you feel comfortable doing. If your family tradition of singing Christmas carols is too much to bear, don’t be afraid to abstain. It should be stressed that you should avoid the temptation to completely remove yourself from all holiday celebrations – that may lead to heightened feelings of grief. Instead, be honest about what you can and cannot handle. It’s perfectly ok to bow out of activities throughout the season if you think they’ll do more harm than good.

 2.    Ask for a helping hand

Grief is often accompanied by a marked decrease in energy. If you normally cook a family meal, decorate the Christmas tree, or play host for out-of-town visitors, consider asking for help this year. Whether that means sharing responsibilities with someone else, or handing it off completely, you’ll greatly reduce your own stress. You’ll likely find that your family and friends are more than happy to help.

3.    Avoid alcohol and prescription pills

Substances like alcohol and prescription pills are often used, to much harm, by those seeking relief from their grief. Although a few glasses of wine or a couple of sleeping pills may seem like an easy way to temporarily feel better, we recommend you lay off: they may actually make it more difficult to deal with your emotions.

4.    Include the memory of your loved ones in activities

Just because they can’t be there with you doesn’t mean you can’t include them throughout the season. Whether you listen to their favorite holiday songs, bake their favorite treats, or tell your favorite stories about them, allowing them to have a part in the festivities will allow you to remember them under the most joyous of circumstances.

5.    Allow yourself to start new traditions

When you’re grieving, it can feel like you’ll never be able to enjoy the holidays again. This doesn’t have to be the case. One way to help make this and future holiday seasons more joyful is to develop new traditions. You can still keep the traditions that are close to your heart while incorporating new traditions to help you bring new meaningful and fun activities into your season. 

While we know how difficult it can be to grieve during the holidays, we hope these tips can help you find joy. 

Resources:

Holidays After the Death of a Loved One (via Love to Know)

Dealing with Grief During the Holiday Season (via AARP)

The First Holiday Without Them — Coping With Loss (via ABC News)