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Grief & Holidays: Spending the First Holiday Without Them

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed mental health professional or an expert on grief. This article is based on my personal experiences.

Every holiday morning, I rolled out of bed and opened my texts to see a message from my grandmother. Without fail, she always said hello, happy holidays, how much she missed me, and that she loved me (plus at least five different emojis). I would always smile and quickly text her back, asking her about her work or how her neighbor was doing, saying I wish I lived closer to her so we could spend the holiday together. When she would call my mother later that day, I would take my mom’s phone and speak to my grandma for what seemed like hours before my mom was taking the phone back from me. I would spend weeks thinking of the perfect gift to get her, and then I’d call her the moment I got the delivery email to have her go get it and open it on the phone. I loved our routine, even if I wished we lived closer.

When my family moved closer to my grandma earlier this year, I was ecstatic to have Easter with her. She came over early in the morning and helped my mom begin to cook, bringing over her “three-ingredient peanut butter bites” and having me and my siblings each taste one. We all told her how good they were and how crazy it was that there were only three ingredients in them. She shouted at my brothers to get out of the kitchen and stop taste-testing everything, commented on how I forgot to clean up after myself after I finished making something, and looked at us proudly when we finished all of the dishes. It was the most fun I had ever had on Easter, and when my cousins came over, we all had a blast until late at night. That was my last holiday with my grandma.

After losing my grandmother in June, it’s been a constant cycle of grieving her and forgetting she isn’t there to grieve with. The woman who helped raise me won’t be here for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and I won’t spend weeks thinking of a gift to buy her. I won’t be able to bake with her or help her wrap gifts or decide what to get my mom. I won’t get another holiday with her.

It’s hard. It’s a hard time of year after recently losing someone, and I’m still struggling with how to get through it. But let’s not sit and wallow because our loved ones wouldn’t want that for us. Here are some tips to get through the holiday season without your loved one and still enjoy it.


It’s easy to retreat back into yourself when dealing with grief. I found myself hiding away from my family and not showing my emotions the first few weeks after my grandmother passed. I didn’t talk about it, nor did I want to. I felt so alone when I wasn’t talking to my friends and family. If I had opened up and allowed myself to grieve with my family and still continue to enjoy my time with loved ones, I would have felt more supported and loved. It’s important to be around loved ones after the passing of someone close to you, especially during the holidays when it seems like their presence is missing in the house. Don’t restrict yourself from the experiences you had in the past with them — continue to make new memories in their honor.


Although the holidays are meant to be filled with joy and excitement, it’s hard to keep up that attitude when you remember that your loved one isn’t there to be happy with you. It’s okay to cry and be sad during the holidays — it’s an appropriate response to missing somebody. Don’t restrict yourself from crying just because you don’t want to “ruin the mood.” Let yourself cry, seek comfort, and feel how loved and supported you are.


Even if you don’t want to “ruin the mood,” it’s important to share happy memories of the one you lost with those around you. Let yourself reminisce about past holidays with loved ones, even if it makes you upset. Ignoring that your loved one isn’t there won’t help you in the end. Reminding yourself of their memory will help you appreciate the holiday more and connect with your grieving friends and family. Think about your traditions with your lost loved one and maybe even write a letter to them, telling them how your holiday was without them. It might help you gain some closure during the holidays.


Even if your loved one isn’t there to participate in your favorite traditions with you, you can still continue these traditions and pass them on. The traditions you had with your loved ones were important to both of you, and just because they’re gone doesn’t mean you have to give up that importance. Find someone to help you continue the tradition, whether that be a sibling or parent or even a friend. Continue to make yourself happy during the holidays — you don’t have to stop yourself from feeling and living your life just because you lost somebody.


You’ve experienced a great loss that has thrown your life off course. Your holidays or even day-to-day life isn’t going to look the same as it did in the past. You aren’t going to be able to text them this holiday season, and you won’t be buying them a gift. You won’t see them. Your holidays aren’t the same, and that is okay. You might have more free time on the holidays, or you may be spending them with someone different. Even so, it is still a holiday that you will (hopefully) enjoy and value. The loss of a loved one and the traditions you shared with them will make your holiday different than it was in the past, but that doesn’t mean you should compare them. This goes for comparing your holiday traditions with others’ as well. Don’t focus on what others are doing or what their holidays look like. What matters is what you are doing and why it makes you happy, comfortable, and feel loved.


You’ve been through a lot, but that doesn’t mean you have to go through it alone. You’ve lost a loved one and in the process, maybe even lost a piece of yourself. You’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. It’s okay to ask for help relieving that pressure. It’s okay to ask for help when you are feeling depressed and hopeless. Don’t suffer through these holidays alone — let somebody help you.

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Indiya Warner

CU Boulder '26

Indiya is a Freshman at CU Boulder with a double major in Sociology and Humanities. She is very passionate about social justice and mental health and hopes to spread awareness and help through her articles.