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Three Ways to Enjoy the Holidays After Losing A Loved One

The holiday season is the happiest time of the year for a lot of people! The snow is falling,it’s nice and cozy indoors, we spend time finding the perfect presents for friends and family, and we get a nice break from school. However, for a lot of us that have lost an important loved one, the holidays present extreme emotional challenges that can be very difficult to navigate. There is no way around the difficult emotions the holidays can provoke, but here are a few things I have learned that make the most out of the holidays and help with feeling connected to those who are no longer with us. 

Take time to notice the pain

It can feel like a good idea to ignore the negative emotions and try to be as positive and jolly as possible for the holidays, but this often leads to no good. Bottling up the feelings can result in an intense explosion of emotions or complete emotional numbness, meaning an inability to even experience joy or gratitude during the exciting holiday season!

I highly recommend attempting to really notice the pain when you feel it coming on. If you’re in a place where it is safe to let yourself feel, take a moment to analyze what caused the pain and what the pain feels like in your body. It isn’t easy. Quite the opposite — it hurts! But letting it hurt in the moment is what makes it productive. 

Reach out to others who might be experiencing the same feelings

When you are feeling these emotions, take a moment to think about who might be feeling something similar. Maybe you have a sibling who could relate, or a friend you know who lost a loved one around the holidays. Just this initial moment can help you feel less alone, and therefore comforted. You can even go a step further and reach out to these people and see how they are feeling during this time. It could feel really great to have somebody to bounce thoughts and emotions off of. If there isn’t anyone to talk to directly, try writing down your thoughts and feelings. It is incredible how relieving getting it off your chest can be!

Honor your loved one

My last suggestion is to find a way to honor your loved one during the holidays. This can help you feel connected to them even though they are no longer in your physical presence. My favorite way to do this is by cooking/enjoying some of my dad’s favorite foods. Part of the grieving process for me is adapting to the new normal without forgetting the way things were done before losing him. Food was a huge part of my relationship with my father so there were some things I could not imagine eating without him around. But now I try to cook and eat in his honor, knowing that although he is no longer around, enjoying his favorite foods is a great way for me to feel his presence and reflect on our bond.


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Abby Murphy

Mt Holyoke '23

Mount Holyoke College '23 Education Psychology & Policy Georgia > Massachusetts Learning and Unlearning
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