How To Cope With Grief And Loss During The Holidays
Updated: Mar 4
The Holidays are a time for celebration, excitement, and joy—“’tis the season to be jolly”, as the song goes, right? This may be true for some people, but it’s definitely not a merry time for everyone. Unfortunately, for those struggling to cope with grief and loss, the Holidays can act as a trigger and remind someone of what they’ve lost and make their pain worse. In this article, we will share 5 tips to cope with grief during the Holidays to help you manage this season more easily.
Grieving During The Holidays- 5 Tips To Cope
Grief and loss can be complicated and come in all forms, from losing someone close to you, to losing a pet, to struggling with other life changes like career, living situation, or even financial issues. No matter what you’re grieving, it’s easy to feel conflicted emotionally over the Holidays. There may be times where you want to join the holiday festivities and truly feel excitement and joy again. At the same time, you may also feel drained just thinking about socializing with friends and family. You may even feel guilty for having moments of happiness or wanting to feel joy, because you feel like you “should” be grieving all the time.
Fortunately, there are ways to help ease the emotional and mental pain you may be experiencing. Below are 5 tips you can follow to cope with grief and loss this Holiday season.
1. Allow Yourself To Feel Your Grief (And Other Emotions Too)
Grief and loss are painful no matter what the circumstances are, so it’s no wonder some people try to avoid acknowledging and feeling their grief. Unfortunately, trying to completely avoid your grief can hurt you more in the long run and lead to complicated grief. Show yourself compassion and remember that you are allowed to feel sadness, loneliness, anxiety, anger, regret, and heartache. There is nothing wrong with these emotions and they are a natural part of the grieving process. Try to allow yourself to experience, acknowledge, and accept all of those feelings without trying to stop them. But also remind yourself that it is equally okay to feel joy, love, hope, and excitement while you are grieving and that those emotions do not make your grief any less valid.
2. Set Holiday Boundaries For Yourself
The Holidays can sometimes be stressful, even to people who love them! But to someone dealing with grief, the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season can seem extra overwhelming. If you’re grieving, don’t be afraid to create boundaries to make things less stressful and protect your mental health. Just because your friends, neighbourhood, family, and office have invited you to holiday events, doesn’t mean you have to attend everything (or anything at all!).
Communicate clearly and firmly with those you care about, and do whatever feels right for you. Even if you’re worried about disappointing others or tend to be a people-pleaser, at the end of the day your wellbeing is the most important thing. Remember that even if you do agree to attend an event, you can still change your mind or leave early; your wants and needs are important too!
Pro Tip: When you’re creating boundaries, take the time to think about your needs and wants first. Get together at a specific time with those you care about to talk about these boundaries, and remember to be clear, precise, and firm. People need to know that you’re serious about these new boundaries. If they truly support you, they will understand your need to feel safe and respected. For more tips on coping with stress during the Holidays, read our blog post here.
3. Honour Your Memories
When you’re struggling with grief, you may feel the urge to push your feelings and memories aside, to move past them and forget your pain. But whatever you’re grieving is a part of you, and you don’t have to forget your loss to "move on". Instead of ignoring your grief or becoming overwhelmed by it over the Holidays, choose a tradition or activity to specifically honour or remember whomever or whatever you’ve lost in a way that feels honest and healthy to you. This can help ease feelings of guilt and give you a release for your grief. You can pick whatever tradition is meaningful to you and chose to share it with friends or family. The important thing is that we are intentionally honouring/remembering our loved ones (or whatever we lost) in a way that integrates the pain of the loss with the positive feelings associated with this valued tradition/memory. In essence, stopping traditions or suppressing memories after a loss is a form of avoidance which only prolongs the pain.
4. Create New Traditions
It can be hard to grieve, especially when you have yearly traditions or events that become constant reminders of what or who you’re grieving for. Unlike our last tip (which is still helpful!), instead of trying to participate in (or avoid) old traditions, consider starting a new tradition! Establishing new Holiday traditions (in addition to honouring old ones) can help you create new memories that aren’t connected to someone or something you’ve lost, give you a sense of purpose, a feeling of community, and can give you something to look forward to. They can also give you space to feel joy without feeling like you are ruining old memories.
Pro Tip: There are no rules for creating new traditions, so don’t be afraid to get creative! Try to step outside of the box and think about what kind of new traditions would bring you the most joy and fulfillment. They can be physical, artistic, emotional, bold, simple—whatever suits you!
5. Talk To Someone About Your Grief
Grief and loss can be difficult to deal with on your own at any time of the year, but trying to manage those feelings alone over the Holidays can be even harder. It’s natural to want to spend some time alone, and you may need to sometimes in order to maintain your mental health. But try not to completely isolate yourself for too long. It can cause you to become lost in your own grief, which can lead to increased feelings of depression and hopelessness.
If you feel overwhelmed, confide in someone you trust and feel comfortable talking to such as friends, family, coworkers, or professionals. Therapists can be a great option to help you process your feelings in a healthy and non-judgemental way. You don’t even need to wait until you feel overwhelmed; you can share your feelings with someone at any time! This can be a great way to feel less alone and gain a new perspective. No matter what the reason is for your grief, the Holidays can bring a lot of heavy thoughts and feelings to the surface; you don’t need to manage those feelings alone.
The Bottom Line
The Holiday season isn’t always as merry and joyful as we hope for, but you’re not alone. It’s normal to feel all kinds of emotions during the Holiday season when you’re coping with grief and loss. Remember that grief and loss are felt differently by everyone and there are no unacceptable emotions, no proper timeline, and no “correct” ways to grieve. We may learn to accept loss as time moves forward, but it is often something that never truly leaves us. Give yourself the time, space, and compassion to grieve the way you see fit.
If you’re concerned that you may be suffering from prolonged or complicated grief, or you just want to talk to someone about managing your grief, contact us for a free 15 minute consultation or to book an appointment with one of our Barrie therapists or online counsellors.
Our team of online and Barrie therapists provides quality and effective counselling & psychotherapy services in Barrie and virtually across Ontario to individuals (6+), couples and families. We also offer an Affordable Therapy Program that provides counselling services in Barrie to individuals (12+) who are facing financial challenges that need mental health support.