How to Cope with Grief during the Holidays
At the age of 56, my mom passed away just three weeks before Christmas. Many presents had already been purchased so my family still got together for Christmas, but there were many emotions that day.
Then, five and a half months after my mom, at the age of 59, my dad also passed away. I didn’t participate in any holidays that year. I didn’t attend Thanksgiving, I traveled for Christmas, and then stayed home for New Year’s. And if you’ve lost someone close to you, you know how hard the holidays can be.
It’s all about small steps. For instance, the following year, I did attend Thanksgiving (even though it was still hard) and bought a small (3 foot) tree for Christmas. Small steps are all you can do sometimes.
Here are 10 ways to cope with grief during the holidays. I pray this helps you!
1) Don’t Push Yourself too Hard
Set realistic expectations for yourself. If you feel exhausted and depressed, and truly don’t want to think about “celebrating” anything right now, then don’t . There’s absolutely no shame in knowing some holidays are harder than others and it may be best for you to skip celebrating a holiday if you know it would only cause you to feel worse.
Or, if you feel you should make an effort, even just for your family, try to attend, but simplify things. Maybe talk with your family about buying less presents for each other, or maybe going out to dinner if you don’t have the motivation to cook.
Only you know what you can handle.
2) Ask People to be Understanding
Whether you need some peace, quiet, and time alone during the holidays or you are ready to spend the holidays with family, ask your friends and family to be understanding of your wishes.
However, not everyone knows how you are feeling nor does everyone grieve the way you are, so don’t take it too hard if some people aren’t as understanding as others.
And seriously, it’s okay to ignore people who want to tell you what you should do for the holidays. Listen to yourself, pray, and trust that you know what you need right now.
Also, if you do want to spend the holidays with family and friends, it may be in your best interest to drive yourself to holiday events so that you can leave if it gets too overwhelming.
3) Do Something Small
Instead of having a big party, maybe just get with your closest friends and family and do something small.
For example, instead of cooking a large Thanksgiving dinner, maybe just go out to a nice restaurant for dinner.
Or instead of going all out on Christmas, just do a small gift exchange and ask someone else to bring dinner.
And for New Year’s Eve, maybe instead of drinking and staying up until midnight, have a glass of wine with some friends and watch a movie.
There are always alternatives you can do, remember that small steps are sometimes the best option.
4) Honor your Loved One
Find a way to honor your loved one during the holidays. Here are some ideas:
– Create a memory box then fill it with photos and written memories. Friends and family can add photos or their written memories, poems, etc. as well.
– Light a candle in their honor.
– Fill a vase with your loved one’s favorite flowers and set it on the holiday table.
– Create or purchase a commemorative ornament and put it on the Christmas tree.
– Play your loved one’s favorite music or favorite game.
– Make your loved one’s favorite foods.
Prayer is a powerful tool. And it doesn’t need to be anything elaborate, just tell God what’s in your heart and ask for His help during the holidays. Here’s my prayer:
I come to you in need of peace and comfort.
You know the holidays,
even though a wonderful time to give thanks,
are difficult for me right now.
I ask for your love, guidance, and strength during this time.
Lord, at the moment nothing seems to be able to help the loss I feel.
My heart is broken and I need your strength.
I want to thank you for the people who are in my life,
I’m thankful to be surrounded by people who love me.
Please, Lord, I ask for your love, comfort, strength, encouragement, and peace.
In Jesus’ name,
6) Try to Surround Yourself with People who Love and Support you
Loss is hard and the holidays are hard, don’t make it harder on yourself by shutting people out.
Even if you don’t celebrate the holidays this year, at least spend some time with your family and friends who love and support you.
7) Have a Moment of Silence during your Holiday Prayer in Memory of your Loved One
Ask to have a moment of silence during prayer in honor of your loved one.
A moment of silence during a prayer is a perfect time for everyone to think about memories and pray for comfort.
8) Don’t Ignore how you’re Feeling
It’s okay to grieve and it’s okay to be sad or angry. Grief comes with many emotions, and it’s normal to feel more emotions during the holidays.
People who know you’re grieving will understand this. If you need to take a 5-minute break to be alone, there’s nothing wrong with that.
But shutting people out and pretending you’re okay when you’re not, isn’t going to help you.
9) See a Counselor
Maybe you’ve been putting it off but since the holidays are harder to deal with, now may be a good time to talk to someone.
Personally, I felt like counseling helped me quite a bit. However, it also created more headaches and migraines. Because I was talking about what happened and how I was feeling, it was causing all those negative emotions to resurface, leading to more stress and headaches.
Now this isn’t the case with everyone, obviously, and it’s certainly worth trying if you are depressed. Also, counseling doesn’t have to be just you and a counselor; if you prefer, group counseling is an option that’s available in many places.
And by the way, there’s never EVER shame for getting help, EVER! Asking for help, and wanting to get better is brave and takes willpower!
To find a counselor, just google, ‘counselors for (depression, PTSD, grief, etc.) near (your city)’. 
10) Be Honest
Whatever you decide on doing for the holidays, whether to celebrate, stay home, or simplify the holidays, just be honest.
Tell your family and friends how you are feeling. Communicate with them what you do want to do for the holidays, as well as what you don’t want to do.
Here are some books that may be helpful:
Conquering the Grief that Stole Christmas: Shifting your vision to have hope during the holidays – by: Tammy McDonald
Through a Season of Grief: Devotions for Your Journey from Mourning to Joy – by: Bill Dunn and Kathy Leonard