12 Tips for Coping With Holiday Grief This Season

It’s cited as the most wonderful time of the year, but grief can have a gripping and devastating effect on the winter months.

As we move into the holiday season, grief often feels more intense. The memories of your loved one may seem more pronounced, and the accompanying sadness or fear may feel unbearable.

Whether it’s your first or tenth holiday without them, here’s how you can take care of yourself:

How to Manage Grief This Holiday Season

First, it’s important to say there isn’t a right or wrong way to cope with a loved one’s death. Keep in mind that the first holidays after a loss tend to feel the most painful. That said, in cases of delayed or inhibited grief, it isn’t uncommon to feel immense discomfort several years after the death.

Acknowledge Your Grief

You are allowed to be sad or angry or lonely. You are allowed to have a difficult time or experience uncomfortable feelings. Grief is a cluster of intense emotions and memories and overwhelming experiences, especially if you’re facing bereavement overload. You don’t need to worry about finding meaning right away.

Set Realistic Expectations

Maybe you’re not in the mood to celebrate. Sure, you enjoy your loved ones, but their presence only reminds you of the person you’re deeply grieving. Having realistic expectations is essential when it comes to the holidays. So much of healing means being in the here and now, and that applies to you this holiday season.

Decide Which Traditions You Need to Change

This might be the first holiday where you don’t host the holiday dinner. And that’s okay. You have a right to let go of previous responsibilities. Your family and friends want you to take care of yourself. It’s okay if your main goal is to simply “get through the event.”

Join a Grief Support Group

Being around like-minded individuals can help you cope with your mourning. The most important part of grief often lies in connection. Having shared, supportive moments with other people dealing with loss may help you find meaning in your unique experience.

Try Not to Isolate

It’s tempting to want to cancel the holiday season altogether. And while there’s nothing wrong with having new traditions, being alone often perpetuates more sadness and pain. Even if you’re just “showing up” to social activities (without much desire to be there), you may find that you can tap into more meaning, joy, or connection.

Be Gentle With Yourself

The idea of a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays probably feels laughable. That’s because coping with the loss of a loved one may seem unbearable right now.

In all of this pain, try to be gentle and kind to yourself. Your life is already hard enough in this moment. Take time for rest, relaxation, and self-care. Don’t try to make sense of everything and find peace in the situation.

Give Yourself Permission to Cry (Or Not Cry)

Give yourself permission to be with your tears. Some people feel like they need to put on a strong face in front of others. But your family members don’t need you to be inauthentic, and the best way to honor a loved one’s memory is by letting yourself fully grieve what you’ve lost.

At the same time, everyone processes grief differently. Maybe you aren’t much of a crier. Or maybe you find the sadness comes in serious waves. Whatever the case, that’s okay. There’s no sense of normal during this time.

Cultivate Gratitude

At first, this suggestion may seem condescending when you’re in the thick of grief. But even just focusing on small things that bring you joy can bolster your emotional well-being. The goal isn’t to invalidate your feelings- instead, it’s about remembering that you are alive, and there is a tiny light shining forward.

Stick With Your Usual Routine

The holiday season has a way of throwing everything off track. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by to-do lists, shopping plans, or travel itineraries.

Amid the changes, it’s helpful to feel grounded in yourself. Try to make a schedule that you can follow each day.

Try to Avoid Self-Medicating

It’s so tempting to numb your feelings with easy temptations like food or alcohol or shopping. And the holiday season enables this exact behavior! But in a world that focuses on not feeling, try to go against the grain. Staying present can feel hard, especially if your emotions feel entirely consuming, but self-medicating only worsens the pain.

Decide How You Want to Honor Your Loved One

Grief can take on new meaning when you find ways to commemorate your loss. Maybe it’s simply leaving an empty chair at the dinner table. Maybe you decide to recreate one of their special recipes. Perhaps it’s putting out an old photo album for others to flip through.

And remember: if it all feels too painful, that’s okay, too. Let your feelings and intuition guide you on the best way to commemorate your loved one’s memory.

How Therapy Can Help You Cope With Holiday Grief

Sometimes there are no words for the pain you feel. When you lose someone special to you, the loss affects you forever.

Grieving is an inevitable part of life, and the memories you shared with your loved one are special and irreplaceable. It’s okay to miss them terribly. At the same time, it’s scary to feel like you won’t experience happiness or joy again.

No matter where you are on your grief journey, I am here to support you. This holiday season may be hard, but grief therapy offers a sense of safety and grounding despite the pain. Contact me today to get started.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759

(512) 988-3363

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