The holiday season is coming. If you have lost a loved one, holidays often bring up a variety of mixed feelings. Good memories of past holidays can remind us of the loss and bring up feelings of sadness and pain. Seeing others celebrating the holiday with their loved ones often remind us that we not only lost the person who was so important to us, but we also lost the future we could enjoy with them. Holidays often force us to confront the loss and to realize how much our lives have been changed.

Here are some tips on how to cope with grief during holidays.

Give yourself a space to grieve. Whether you lost your loved one recently and this will be the first holiday season without that person, or if you have lost that important person years ago, holidays will be different because of the loss. It is perfectly normal to be reminded of the loss on holidays and experience waves of sadness. Give yourself permission to grieve, even if the loss happened years ago.
Surround yourself with people who understand and support you. Let someone whom you trust know that you may lean on them for support, and make a plan for how you can reach out to that person in advance (e.g., pulling them aside for a private talk in a family gathering, calling them or texting them if they are physically distant, etc.).

Think about what holiday traditions you want to change and create new ritual(s) to honor the absent loved one. For example, if the person whom you lost used to be the one who made the turkey, think about either designating someone else to make the turkey in advance or ordering turkey instead of making it at home. People usually find it helpful to create a ritual to honor the absent love one. Some examples include creating a memory box and asking family and friends to write a note about that person, playing the absent loved one’s favorite song during dinner, creating a piece of art work dedicated to your loved one, etc.

Remember to care of yourself. Avoid using alcohol or drugs to numb your emotions. Regular physical exercise can help to improve your mood. Journaling can be a great outlet too. I hope that you have a fulfilling time during this holiday season.

Jingqing Liu
Senior Staff Psychologist