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Navigating Loss During the Holiday Season

The holidays will likely be very different and understandably difficult for those who have lost a loved one. However, acknowledging the loss and coordinating with your close family and friends to honor your loved one’s memory and create new traditions will make the season warm once again. 

Self-Care Through The Holiday Season

No matter what events are planned with friends and family, if you are grieving, make sure to take care of your own needs to prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed. Some helpful techniques and reminders for maintaining mental health in the holiday season include:

  1. Skip events: If an event feels overwhelming or brings up painful emotions, then don’t go. If an event becomes too much, leaving early is perfectly alright as well. Prioritizing your mental health is more valuable than a single get-together. 
  2. Communicate with those closest to you: Reach out to your support network. Asking friends and family for help honoring your loved one’s memory is a great way to remember cherished moments with them. If family events are emotionally difficult, letting them know ahead of time will prevent stress or strain in those relationships. 
  3. Don’t participate in holiday traditions: For many grieving people, giving gifts or sending holiday cards is painful. Don’t feel obligated to participate in these traditions if they don’t bring the same joy they once did. 
  4. Consider professional support: No matter how well someone is able to handle their feelings, seeking professional help and counseling is an important tool to help deal with grief. Support groups may also provide a community of people with similar experiences that relate to the pain of losing a loved one.
  5. Journal: Journaling is an emotional outlet that helps you process the events in your life. 

Honoring a Loved One’s Memory

Spending time honoring their memory at holiday events may bring comfort and help make the holiday season easier. Some ways to honor their memory include:

  1. Visit their grave: Bringing a wreath or other holiday-related items to their grave both celebrates the holidays and provides comfort. 
  2. Light a candle or leave an empty seat in their honor: If leaving an empty seat is too painful, then invite an extra friend or family member who may not be able to celebrate otherwise will help make new memories and bring the whole group closer together in light of the recent loss. 
  3. Have friends and family describe their favorite memories of lost loved ones: Reminiscing about loved ones that have passed can help keep their memory alive and bring back thoughts of fond moments that will help make grieving less painful. 
  4. Play their favorite music: If there are any holiday songs that a late parent, loved one, or friend especially enjoyed, playing those songs at a holiday dinner or event can be soothing as well.
  5. Look at photo albums or old photos: Looking at pictures is a way to still have the loved one present even if they have passed on. This could be a personal photobook or a new wall of photos for the whole family to enjoy.

As we enter the holiday season, many people are mourning, so remember, you are not alone. Finding ways to take care of oneself and to honor your departed friend or family will make this painful holiday season a bit more cheerful. 


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