Holiday Grief: Coping With the Loss of Loved Ones

The holidays can intensify bereavement, especially for families who have recently lost a loved one. Seasonal traditions, rituals and routines can magnify the loss and provoke overwhelming emotions that make celebration all but impossible. If you're struggling to cope with a recent loss, learn some ways to promote healing for you and your family.

Make a new tradition. Honor your loved one by creating a new tradition. For example, you can hang a stocking in honor of the person you've lost and have each person fill it with something that represents a special memory. This can generate conversation in a comfortable way and help people feel less awkward about bringing up a deceased family member.

Drive yourself to events. If possible, use your own mode of transportation to get to parties or other holiday gatherings. This will give you more control and allow you to leave if you begin struggling with your emotions.

Look for support. Experts recommend grief groups for people who have recently lost someone they love. This can be an especially comforting strategy during the holidays, when people often feel alone or misunderstood.

Don't hold it all in. Don't be afraid to show your emotions. By openly expressing your grief, you can pave the way for other family members to do the same and attract more support.

Perform a ritual. Studies show that rituals can be very healing for bereaved families, especially when centered on an activity or role once performed by a lost loved one. It may be something as simple as a Christmas day walk, lighting candles or decorating the tree.

Volunteer. Many people tend to cope with grief better when they spend time giving back. In fact, studies show that volunteering can significantly increase self-esteem and reduce depression.

Take care of yourself. When someone is dealing with loss, they tend to have less energy and low mood. Give yourself a chance to feel better by eating regularly and prioritizing sleep.

It’s okay to grieve during the holidays

Bereavement can make celebrations awkward and painful, especially if it's the first holiday cycle without a loved one. Unfortunately, many people feel pressure to fake happiness to avoid ruining other people's good time. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, and don't get frustrated if you simply cannot get into the holiday spirit. Remember that healing takes time. Be patient with yourself and ask for help if your sadness or loneliness becomes too overwhelming.