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By: Carol Briggs, Clinical Intern

Losing someone close can feel unbearable. During the holiday season, the loss seems magnified and the pain greater because we’re so used to being with loved ones during this time. The holidays turn into a heartbreaking reminder of our loss and our grief leaves little room for festive joy.

We need to grieve our losses. It allows us to process them and moves us closer to making sense of life without our loved ones physically present. It’s tempting to want to avoid the pain, maybe because it’s too uncomfortable or maybe we’re worried about “ruining” the holiday for others. Try to lean into the discomfort and allow yourself to feel the pain fully. If it helps, you can designate a specific time and place to grieve either privately, with family, or supportive friends.

The holidays can be tough for lots of people for numerous reasons. Whether you’ve lost someone recently or in years past, the holiday season can be difficult to navigate. Here are some things to think about if you’re grieving during the holidays.

  • Take time to reflect on your needs. Once you’ve identified your needs, share them with others. Be specific about what you want and need the holidays to look like this year.
  • Grief can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Be aware of your limitations. You don’t have to do all the things you would normally do. If scaling down or skipping some traditions is not what you want or need, ask for help in planning and getting everything done.
  • Think of and practice ways to honor your loved ones. It can feel like a part of us dies when we lose a loved one. Making space for memories and traditions that honor our loved ones helps us recognize that a part of them still lives within us.
  • It’s ok to skip the holidays! You’re allowed to do what’s best for you and if that means sitting out on traditions this year, that’s ok. The holidays will come again next year.

This year is especially trying. There’s the collective grief we all feel as holiday parties go virtual or are canceled, and gatherings are much smaller. If you’ve lost someone, this change may feel like a relief or it may add to pain and loneliness. Be gentle with yourself and reach out for help when pain and loneliness get to be too much. Counseling can help lessen feelings of isolation, provides support with the pain, and provides a space to simply grieve. If you need extra support right now, please reach out. We have clinicians experienced in helping individuals through grief and loss. For additional ways to cope with loss during the holidays, see the link below.

64 Tips for Coping with Grief During the Holidays