Date: December 14, 2020

Author: Teresa Howard, LCSW


Coping with the Holidays After a Loss

For those who have had a recent loss, the holidays that were once looked forward to as a time of togetherness and celebration may now be dreaded and overwhelming. When everyone around seems to be joyful and scheduling celebratory events, those who are grieving often experience intense sadness, withdrawal, despair, loneliness, and a longing for the loved one who will not be joining the celebrations this year.

It is very important for those experiencing a loss to have effective means of coping through the holidays. Below are a few suggestions:

Practice self-care. Self-care includes scheduling time for eating, sleeping, and moderate exercise, as well as tending to personal hygiene.

Ask for what you need. Give yourself permission to ask for what you need from those around you. This may be a break during holiday festivities, or skipping certain celebrations or parts of familiar rituals that may be too difficult this year. It is also okay to ask for a hug, someone to share your not-so-celebratory feelings with or a box of tissues!

Lower your expectations. Remember you are going through a physically and emotionally stressful time. Please do not put the added pressure on yourself by expecting to perform the same rituals, traditions and tasks as before. This is especially emphasized if this is your first holiday without your loved one. You will enjoy increased levels of energy and enthusiasm for holidays to come.

Find ways to commemorate and celebrate. Before the holidays, talk with friends and family about ways to remember your loved one and incorporate this special person into the rituals this year [and every year if you enjoy doing this). It can be, as simple as lighting a candle for your loved one and taking time to share memories of past holiday;  it can be as elaborate as a planned activity that may become a new
tradition in honor of your loved one.

Give yourself permission to feel good. It is okay to enjoy the day, smile and laugh. Many bereaved survivors feel guilty for enjoying an activity and having a good time. Feeling good and laughing is natural way for your body to relax and regain strength. It is a healthy reaction, and you are not being disrespectful to the memory of your loved one if you enjoy yourself at times.

There is no reason to try to go it alone. Please contact a trained professional for support, validation, and specific suggestions to help you through the holiday time and beyond. You may also consider joining a bereavement group or attending a holiday memorial service designed to remember your loved one during this time of year. For more information about bereavement counseling click here.

Date: December 14, 2020