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How to Survive the Holidays After a Loss

Grief during the holidays may need grief counseling

It’s the time of year when we spend time with loved ones, gather together with our families, and reflect on what we’re grateful for. But if you’ve recently suffered a loss, the holidays can bring up difficult emotions and memories. They also often require more effort than usual as you try to keep everyone happy while still honoring your loved one. Here are some tips to help you celebrate this season in a way that honors both yourself and your loved one:

Acknowledge your emotions.

It can be hard to acknowledge that you are grieving and that these feelings of sadness and loss are part of the process. You may try to push them aside or ignore them, but don’t do it! When you feel sad or angry or frightened, let yourself feel those emotions. They are natural responses to what has happened in your life and they need to be felt and expressed in order for healing to take place.

When comparing your grief with someone else’s grief (e.g., “It’s been longer for me than for her”) remember that everyone grieves differently based on their relationship with the loved one who passed away as well as their personal experiences throughout life (e.g., losing a pet vs losing a parent).

Communicate your needs.

It’s important to communicate your needs. If you need space to be alone, ask for it. If you want some quiet time or a distraction from what’s going on around you, let your friends and family know how they can help. Don’t worry about being selfish or inconveniencing others—it’s okay if they do something different than they usually do while spending time with you this holiday season!

If possible, try not to go through the holidays alone. This can be difficult if it means making sure someone else is always there when one person dies in a group setting; however, even if it seems impossible right now, talk with someone close about what kind of support would be helpful and make an effort to get that kind of support when possible.

Establish new family traditions.

Establishing new family traditions can be an important way to feel connected to your loved one, even when their physical presence is gone. These traditions do not have to be elaborate or expensive—in fact, some of the most meaningful ones I’ve observed are the simplest ones:

  • Singing Christmas carols together at home
  • Opening presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning
  • Going for a walk in the park on New Year’s Day (or whatever day you celebrate)
  • Visiting your loved one’s grave site together
  • Writing a year-end letter and putting it in a keepsake box

Spend time with children.

If you have children, this is the time to include them in the grieving process. They need to know that their feelings are valid, and that it’s okay for them to ask questions about death. In fact, some experts say that it’s better for children to ask about death because then parents can answer those questions honestly rather than leaving things unsaid and avoiding the topic altogether.

Children can be a source of comfort in times of grief—and not just for you! Children will often look to other adults around them as role models and they may learn how they should react by observing how those adults behave during difficult times such as grieving over a loved one passing away or moving away from home.

Celebrate the good times.

I know that it can be hard to celebrate the holidays after losing a loved one, but it’s ok to remember the good time and not just the loss. Celebrate the life of your loved one and the good times you had together. Talk about them, share stories with family and friends, write letters or make videos telling funny stories that will make people laugh when they watch it years later. The holidays are not just a time to remember your loved one, but also a time to celebrate them and all of the great memories that you shared with them over the years!

The holidays after losing a loved one can be hard, but there are ways to make them through them with grace and love for yourself and others.

The holidays after losing a loved one can be hard, but there are ways to make them through them with grace and love for yourself and others.

  • Acknowledge your emotions. You might feel sad or depressed during the holidays, which is normal. Take some time off from work or social gatherings if you need it in order to stay healthy and rested.
  • Communicate your needs. Tell loved ones what they can do to help you get through this difficult time like letting you spend more time alone or checking on you regularly.
  • Establish new family traditions that honor the person who died such as a birthday party or celebration of life ceremony at their favorite spot (the beach). Try something different this year so that everyone feels included in the new tradition(s). It’s important that everyone feels comfortable participating in these events because some people might still feel uncomfortable talking about the deceased person while others may have trouble coping without knowing how other family members are doing emotionally.


As you can see, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to surviving the holidays after a loss. But if you take these tips to heart and use them as your guide, you’ll be able to find some peace in the midst of chaos—and maybe even joy. After all, we all need a little bit of that sometimes!

Knot Counseling offers grief counseling. Let us help you celebrate your loved one and move through the pain in a healthy way.


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