How to Cope with Grief During the Holidays

Although the holidays are supposed to be a time of spreading cheer, expressing gratitude, and spending quality time with family, it can feel near impossible to muster up the strength to participate in these festivities if you’re mourning the loss of a loved one.

Almost a year ago, I was braving my first Christmas after the passing of my dad’s fiance. As my family gathered to my grandma’s to celebrate together, the hole her death had left in both my heart and life left me feeling exacerbated by the holidays.

While my siblings and cousins tore through their presents, I burrowed deeper into the folds of grandma’s couch, twiddling the cool of her necklace in my palm. Their excitement was just another painful reminder that the only thing I wanted for Christmas could not be found wrapped underneath the tree.

In order for me to cope with this change, I had to find ways to integrate the loss into my holiday celebration. While this may not be the best method for everyone, there are other ways to tackle the holidays after the passing of a loved one.

What you can do to counter the loss:

1. Trust in the grieving process

Everyone handles loss differently -- and healing is not linear. There are some who may try to make light of the situation at hand and laugh, and others who cry or become angry. Regardless of what emotion may surface during the grieving process,  acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. Sit with your suffering, and allow yourself to feel the hurt.

 2. Find comfort in old traditions

You will probably never forget your loved one, but make sure to not fall so deep into grief that you forget about those you still have left. Make a conscious effort to transcend the loss as a reminder to value the time you are given with those you love. Remain in the present moment and take in your surroundings moment to moment with your five senses.

3. Establish new traditions

Do not be afraid to voice your feelings to whoever you are celebrating with. You probably are not the only person in the room who misses the loved one as well, and it may be beneficial for everyone to externalize the loss by finding a way to honor the individual’s life as a group. This could be as simple as sharing your favorite memory of the person, saying a prayer (if you identify with a religion,) performing one of their favorite activities, making their favorite holiday dish, etc.