How to Get Through Holiday Grief 

For most, the holiday season means shopping, fun outdoor activities, decorating, spending time with family and enjoying traditions. However, for those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, the holiday season can magnify grief to new dimensions and make previously enjoyed activities extremely difficult. Especially in the first year after a death, survivors have to learn how to develop new traditions without their loved one, often leaving them with feelings of vulnerability, loneliness and isolation. 

Whether you feel physically drained, highly emotional or numb to it all, there are certain things you can do to prepare for the upcoming holiday season and take care of yourself. It is also important to remember that sometimes the anticipation of certain events is harder than the day itself! 

Take everything one decision at a time. 

Since this year is different, we recommend thinking about your responsibilities and expectations from last year and then asking yourself if you want to continue them. If someone else offers to host a gathering or shop for gifts, accept it. If you’re used to decorating the house with someone you lost or taking family photos for the annual holiday card, maybe you opt for a store-bought card option or selectively decorating instead.  

Surround yourself with those who love you. 

It is easy to isolate during times of grief, especially when the weather is colder. Instead, rely on their comfort and support. It’s okay to avoid situations where you do not feel comfortable, but social activities will help normalize your situation. Be sure to share your plans with family members and friends and let them know what your routine will look like. They will work to accommodate your needs so you aren’t left alone. 

Allow yourself to feel. 

No two people grieve the same way, and there’s no right or wrong way to handle yourself. Do not feel guilty for being sad or angry while everyone else is happy. Conversely, you shouldn’t feel guilty for smiling, laughing and enjoying yourself while grieving! Experiencing positive emotions does not mean you have forgotten your loved one — it just means you’re coping with your emotions. After all, they would want you to be happy. 

Do something for others. 

Giving gifts or donations in memory of your loved one is a great way to honor their legacy while doing something positive for someone else. You could also invite a guest to your family gathering who would otherwise be alone or offer to buy presents for a family in need. Doing for others will bring you a unique sense of needed comfort. 

Take care of yourself. 

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can often be overwhelming and draining. If you’re already feeling exhausted, take a step back and allow yourself to relax. If you need an outlet for your grief, consider writing your feelings down. A journal is a great way to express your emotions if you struggle to discuss your feelings with others. We urge you to stay away from alcohol and other vices that you could end up relying on to better your mood. 

Find a way to honor your loved one. 

Remembering can be difficult, but it can also bring you closer to your loved ones. When your family or friends are gathered in the living room after dinner, have everyone go around and share their favorite memory of your loved one who has passed. Light a candle in their honor, hang an ornament on the tree in memory of them, or incorporate some of their favorite foods into your meals.  

Make room for new traditions. 

It can be hard to accept that holidays may look a little different. Sit down with your family and discuss which traditions you want included or excluded. Make a plan for who will take over significant roles that your departed loved one used to fulfill. Change is difficult, but it allows you to move forward and create new memories. 

No matter how you choose to approach the holiday season this year, remember that there is not right or wrong way to celebrate. Be gentle and patient with yourself. The best things you can do for yourself are plan ahead, practice mindfulness, rely on support from others and take it easy. 

Need help? 

Stillinger Family Funeral Homes has been serving families in the Greenfield, New Palestine and Cumberland, Indiana communities for decades. We do whatever we can to help the families we serve cope with grief, especially during the holiday season. 

We have grief support resources available online and in-house that will assist you throughout your healing journey, including a daily email service and grief therapy dogs. If you feel you need a more personalized solution to support you on the road to recovery, we are always available for you. 

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