How To Deal With Grief During The Holidays

Imagine how good it would be to stop the grieving process during the holidays. I remember wishing I could do that during the first and the next few seasons of the holidays after the painful loss of a loved one in my life.

I remember the constant internal struggle. There were times when I wanted to participate in the excitement and joys of life. And there were times I didn’t want to participate at all, or I felt guilty for celebrating. That conflict still exists in me today.

Sadness is a complex and unique feeling for everyone. It is often something that stays with us forever, even though just accepting a loss becomes easier over time.

The “pause” button does not exist. It is very challenging being in pain while there is so much joy all around you. Sadness always develops, and it seems that feelings sometimes get out of our control.

There are things you can do to alleviate some of the conflict you may be experiencing. If you are the one who grieves during the holiday season or it is someone you know, here are some useful tips to help you get through this painful period.

Set Healthy Boundaries with Events

Committing yourself to do something that sounds fun can be very rewarding for you. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be there all the time. It is also okay to completely opt-out of certain activities. 

It is important to find the right balance between participating and not forcing yourself to do something. You can be involved in what suits you. Also, you can say “no” to things that don’t make you feel alright. While there might be some pressure to attend holiday parties, family gatherings, holiday events, you are ultimately the one who decides whether you will participate or not.

Adjust To Your Grief Emotions

As we have already mentioned, sadness is not absent during the holidays and can often increase. It is important to be aware of your feelings and not to avoid them.

During the holidays, you can experience both negative and positive feelings during grief. That is okay. Within a few minutes, you can feel happiness, guilt, and sadness. Allow yourself to feel those emotions without self-condemnation. Try to be kind to yourself and remember that all feelings can coexist. We may miss the person and enjoy the holiday at the same time.

Grief Is Part of Healing

Time does not heal the pain associated with loss. The thing that matters is what you do with that time. Grief is a healing process and is always slow and difficult. Experiencing pain can actually help you feel better in the long run. 

Pretending the holidays don’t exist can be tempting, but temporarily avoiding the pain only prolongs the anxiety. The holidays will become more bearable, but only if you allow yourself to experience the sadness of going through them without a loved one.

Focus on What You Can Control

There are many things you can’t control during the holidays. It could be Christmas music in malls, or you might hear your friends talking about their plans for the holiday. You cannot prevent or influence such things. Think about what you can do to reduce your heartache. 

It’s okay to do online shopping and keep decorations to a minimum. Choose a few things you can do to establish control over the holiday festivities and keep in mind that life goes on for other people as well, and it’s okay for them to be happy to celebrate this year.

Fill Empty Holiday Roles

Loss also means that there will be a need to fill those positions. It is necessary to think ahead (especially with children) to consider who will fill those vacant positions (e.g., Dad always dressed as Santa or Aunt always cut the turkey). Planning ahead can eliminate needless moments of sadness and can help make encounters more fun and fluid.

The expectation of how complicated everything is going to be is always worse than the actual case. So, while Thanksgiving dinner could last just two hours, you could easily spend three weeks dreading it. To stop extending your anguish, build a clear plan for how you’ll get through the holidays.

Often, making an escape strategy is beneficial. Drive to holiday events or travel with a trusted friend who, whenever you want, will take you home. Only knowing that at any moment you can quickly escape can make you enjoy the activity even more than you would if you felt trapped.

Honor Old Traditions & Memories

In order to remember and commemorate the individuals who are no longer here, it can be useful to continue with old rituals that existed. This is a valuable way of protecting their memories.

Build a special way of memorializing the person you lost. Whether you want to light a candle every night or eat your loved one’s favorite food, it will serve as a tangible reminder to remember your loved one that even though your loved one is gone, love never dies.

Also, there are memorial websites where you can create, preserve and share memories of your loved ones.

Create New Traditions

For people who are mourning, developing new rituals can be calming. Making new memories doesn’t erase old memories. Bear in mind, your loved one is going to want you to enjoy the holidays. Recognize, confirm and then question any feelings of remorse that may develop in the process.

This year, don’t be afraid to build new traditions as well. Being imaginative and doing something a bit out of the ordinary is OK. You can also change old traditions to make them work better in your life with the new process.

Making new memories doesn’t erase old ones.

Identify Grief Coping Skills

Try making a list of go-to coping skills to use whether you are at home or at a social event until the holiday season begins. When sorrow affects you suddenly, it will be convenient. Deep breathing, taking a walk, journaling, listening to music, practising meditation, and saying positive affirmations are some examples of coping abilities. 

Volunteer/Do Something Charitable

Helping others helps to ease the pain while bringing joy into the life of someone else who needs it. It’s always a good idea here. It’s always a good idea here. Check out this article by The Shine Project with 51 holiday service projects if you need thoughts on how to send.

Ask For Help While Dealing With Grief

If required, it is necessary to seek help from friends, family, colleagues and professionals. The holidays will bring up many difficult emotions, whether you have lost someone close to you or not. Searching for services from a psychiatrist or counselor is totally natural and can be beneficial.

When you’re dealing with the holidays, don’t be afraid to seek support. It may be enough to remind loved ones that you are having a tough time, but you may also want to reach out for more support. To help you cope with your loss in a safe way, search for support groups or contact a licensed counselor.


The holiday season is not always as fun as we would like it to be. Feeling apprehensive about it is natural and you are not alone in feeling that way. Please note that, after the death of a loved one, there is no right or wrong way to treat the holiday season. If you experience happiness, allow it to penetrate your space of grief and be present with the individuals around you. Be kind to yourself and try one holiday party and one feeling at a time to take it away.


  • Jessie Connor

    Writer and Researcher

    Jessie Connor is a passionate writer and researcher from Brisbane, contributor for several business and lifestyle blogs, hooked on yoga and healthy living. She loves to spend her free time travelling, reading and of course – shopping!