10 Tips on Dealing with Grief During Holidays

Dealing with grief during the holidays can be the hardest.  I hope that this advice will make things a little easier for you.

Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries often prove to be the most difficult times for the bereaved. They should be accepted as a trying time and planned for accordingly.

Alaska, Canada - a place to escape the grief of Christmas?

1.  Do Something Different

How did you usually spend Christmas or Thanksgiving? For some, the traditions can be comforting, but for most, it is too hard to keep things as they were. Don’t try and pretend that everything can go on as before and be the same. There is a temptation to cancel everything and do nothing, but this can make things worse if you sit at home and mope.

Try and do something a bit different. Perhaps you should try a different venue. Go to a family home not often visited by your loved one. Go to friends or have family staying with you. But, accept all invitations and make sure you are not alone.

2.  Include Memories of Your Loved One

Some families will have a place set at the table for the lost loved one.  Or you could place their photo and some treasured objects on a table in the room.  Don't be afraid of sharing memories of past times and talking about how your loved one would have enjoyed the day.  

Yes, it is painful, but it helps you to include them, rather than try to avoid talking about them.  If you shed a few tears, do it in memory of them, it is comforting.  You don't need to be miserable all day, but don't be afraid of letting your feelings show.  

3. Don't Take On Too Much - Look After Your Health

If you were the one who always did the decorations and the cooking, arrange for someone else to do it.  Don't take on too much stress at difficult times of the year.  Things do not have to be perfect!  

Give yourself time to relax, to grieve and look after your own health.  Trying to do too much will tire you out and add to the stress levels.  

Be careful too not to hide your grief at these times by over-indulging in food or alcohol.  It will only make you feel worse in the end.  

Read about our advice for looking after your health when grieving.  

4.  Avoidance!  

Don't be afraid to say no and skip events if you can't face them.  It's your time now.  If people are offended, just explain quietly that you are not ready for celebrating yet.  

But don't sit alone at home instead.  Do something positive for you.  Do something different and new to help you move forward.  Choose something that is right for you.  Volunteer, travel, maybe get together with others who have lost loved ones and will understand.  Spend some time doing things that you find relaxing, whether it's yoga, or knitting or visiting a friend.  Perhaps write your thoughts down in a grief journal.  

5.  Give to Others by Volunteering or Donating

If you can’t face celebrating at all, why not honour the departed loved one by doing something giving during the holidays.

Serve lunches for the homeless, or wrap presents at the children’s home.  

Visit your local nursing home and help the residents unwrap their presents.  There are bound to be people there who have no-one to visit them.  

Or you could buy a present in your loved one's name and give it to a charity.  

Your loved one would be proud of you for doing something selfless and positive in their name.  

6.  Travel to Get Away

Holidays such as Christmas are often a time when we do what other family members expect from us. Don’t be pressured. Do what is right for you, and if that means getting on a plane and spending the time in Peru or Alaska then do it.  

Some countries don't celebrate the same holidays, so if you want to avoid Christmas, go to an Asian country for example.  

7.  Manage the Grief of Birthdays and Anniversaries

“Anniversaries are days to contemplate the past, and glimpse the tremendous difference in this new life that survived.”  Stephanie Ericsson, author of Companion Through the Darkness.  

If a special birthday for the loved one is looming, for example the 18th or the 21st, the 40th or 50th birthday, plan a celebration of their life. Organise a special dinner and invite family and friends. Celebrate their life, you will all have happy memories to share, anecdotes to tell. You may cry, but you will also share laughter and this is good. You will not forget your loved one but talking about them will be good for everyone.

If it is not a special birthday or anniversary, it is still an important day for you. Plan a walk, and/or a lunch out with a friend. Go to a movie, or go for a swim. Make it a special day for you. Try not to spend these days alone brooding.

A problem shared is a problem halved.

Good friends are always happy to be supportive and needed at these times. Don’t be afraid to ask for a little help. Everyone likes to be needed. 

Tea, sympathy and a chat is great medication.

8. Dealing with Grief during Summer Holidays

I was lucky enough to have traveled and had some wonderful holidays with my husband before he died. I have lots of wonderful memories. But it’s difficult to plan holidays once you are alone, and hard to go to any of the same places you shared with your partner, or lost loved one. You might be afraid that while you are on holiday grief could hit you hard.

Six months after I lost my husband, my daughter and her partner invited me to go to Bali with them. It was only six months, but I had got used to living in the house without him, and thought it was time to try and enjoy a holiday.

My greatest fear was returning to the house afterwards. I was unsure whether I should go, but then I decided that the remainder of my life is precious and it is time for me now. I had never been to Bali, and it was a place that my husband might not have enjoyed so much, as he didn’t like the heat. We had a really wonderful time, and although sometimes it was hard looking at the empty fourth chair at the table, we had some good laughs and created some new precious memories.

Amed, BaliNew experiences help us to create our own new life and move on

9.  Create your Own Bucket List

Think about the places you have always wanted to see, but perhaps your loved one wasn’t so interested. Find other people to go on holidays with. Invite a friend. It may be just what they need too.

You can also join groups who do trips – if you’re unsure, try a few day trips first with a local group to get used to traveling with new friends.

10. Miss Them But Don't Feel Guilty

Grief during the holiday season will get easier to cope with the more you get out and about.

Don’t feel guilty for enjoying yourself. Your loved one would not have wanted you to spend the rest of your life moping at home. Do it in honour of them, and for them too.

Don’t be afraid to think “they would have loved this” and even shed a tear that they missed it. But it’s better to imagine that you are doing it for them.

Related Pages: 

Writing Through Your Grief

Grief and Guilt

Books to Help You Cope with Grief

Where to get help: 

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Online counseling can help by giving you that support so you don't feel so alone. You can have someone to talk to anytime you like, a kind and understanding person who will help you to find meaning in life again, to treasure the memories of your loved one without being overwhelmed and to enjoy your activities, family and friends again.

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Hypnosis for Grief - 10 Ways It Can Help You

Try a gentle hypnotherapy track to relax the mind. Learn how self-hypnosis can help you cope with grief at any time of the day or night.  

Read more about it here. 

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