Loss and Grief - Holidays

Family Caregiving September 23, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF
Many people who have lost a loved one experience more intense feelings of grief during the holidays. This is true of birthdays and anniversaries, too. Since you’re used to associating the holidays with good times and your special person, you’ll likely miss them even more at this time of year. You will likely still enjoy certain aspects of the holiday season, especially if you’re able to spend time with other family members and friends. It is helpful, however, to be prepared, stay flexible, and trust your ability to handle whatever situations arise.

Handling the Holiday Season

  • Allow yourself some time to feel sad or have a good cry.
  • Be careful with excessive use of alcohol or medications.
  • Try to keep on a routine. Eat as well as you can, get your rest, and maintain your exercise program.
  • If you need some quiet time, take it.
  • Some people feel that a change of pace is more helpful than old familiar traditions. Do you want to do something entirely different, such as spend the holiday at the beach or in the mountains where you won't be so acutely reminded of your loved one's absence?
  • Set priorities. Grief is exhausting; know that you may tire quickly and save your energy for the most important things.
  • If you aren't up to a large family affair, have a scaled-down event with a few close family members or friends.
  • Delegate. Let others share the workload by helping with decorations and preparing food.
  • Be prepared to receive correspondence from friends who have not heard of the death and may inquire about your loved one's health or activities.
  • If you are by yourself, you may want to consider spending the day volunteering. The good feeling that comes with giving of yourself can be healing.
  • Light a special candle to honor your loved one.
  • Special prayers can be said in memory of your loved one.
  • Look for a lecture or workshop on how to get through the holidays.
  • Know that the anticipation of a holiday or family event often may be more difficult than the actual day. Allow yourself to enjoy the day if that’s truly how you feel.
  • Give yourself something to look forward to after the holiday.
  • At dinner, make a toast to the person who has died and invite others to do the same.
  • This might be the time to share some personal belongings of your loved one with family and friends. Make sure people know you are going to do this ahead of time so there won't be an awkward silence. You might consider having a basket of gifts waiting for your family or friends--gifts from your loved one to each person.
  • Bring photos of your loved one to the event and encourage family members and friends to tell stories or share memories.

For additional tips on how you can help yourself during the holidays, visit: http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_topics/families_and_consumers/holiday_blues.html.

Adapted with permission from GriefWorks, Sam Quick, Professor Emeritus, Human Development and Family Relations Specialist, Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.




Connect with us

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube


This is where you can find research-based information from America's land-grant universities enabled by eXtension.org



This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.