Grieving During the Holidays

by Nicole Caines, Registered Psychologist

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Free-Photos / Pixabay

For those who have lost a loved one, the themes of family and togetherness associated with the holidays can be a bittersweet reminder of what has been lost. Although nothing will fully take away the pain of grief, here are some tips that might help ease you through the holidays:

  • Have realistic expectations for yourself. Grief can be exhausting, so adjust your holiday schedule to accommodate ‘down time’ to recharge. Know that saying no is a healthy boundary to set. It is also helpful to clearly communicate your needs to your loved ones. Don’t assume that they know what you need.
  • Resist the urge to isolate yourself. Resist the pressure to participate in every event, but commit to certain events where you will be surrounded by supportive people. Holidays will eventually get easier, but only if you experience the grief of going through them. It may also be helpful to have an escape plan in case you feel overwhelmed.
  • Maintain your connection with your loved one. Our bonds with our loved ones do not end when they die. Find a meaningful way to remember your loved ones. Light a candle in their honour, bake their favorite holiday recipe, etc.
  • Allow yourself to grieve but also to take breaks from grieving. Laughing and experiencing joy does not mean you have forgotten your loved ones, nor does creating new holiday traditions. It is normal to oscillate in and out of grief.
  • Do something kind for others. Donating in honour of your loved one, volunteering for a charity, or making a meal for someone who is alone during the holidays is a great way to focus your energy in a productive and meaningful way.

While grief is a normal and healthy process, if your grief has become debilitating and all-consuming and has not eased after 6 months, you may be experiencing a form of complicated grief that requires additional support from a professional. If you think you may be experiencing complicated grief, please speak to your doctor or seek out a mental health professional.