Seven Tips for Making Not So Happy Holidays Happy Holidays in the Midst of Grief


Fall has come, and we are shifting to leaves falling, days getting shorter, and weather getting colder.  As the season changes, oftentimes moods change, particularly as we near Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.  While the holiday season tends to be a joyful time for many, there are others who dread this time of year.  One main reason for the dread is grief and loss.  The shift of not having a dear loved one present for a time and season that used to bring so much excitement has turned into a time of disappointment, dissatisfaction, and depression.  While there are no easy answers or fixes, the hope is that some of the suggestions listed below will be helpful in making it through the holiday season. 

  1.  Take time to grieve – You love your deceased loved one.  It is okay to take time out to cry, experience feelings or sadness, and reflect.  It is okay to visit the cemetery and take flowers.  It is okay to take out a journal and write a letter to your loved one.  The grief process is a normal part of the human experience, so taking some time to grieve is appropriate.  
  2. Remember the happy times together – What are some funny memories that you have with your loved one?  Was there a silly dance he or she used to do?  Was there that one time when he or she accidently burned the Thanksgiving turkey but everyone found it humorous?  Was it that silly Christmas gift that made you laugh excessively upon opening it? Although recalling the memories are reminders of your loved one and could elicit some feelings of sadness, taking some time to laugh at things your loved one enjoyed, said, or did could also bring about a smile on your face. 
  3. Connect with other loved ones – While grieving, we frequently isolate.  Some time alone to reflect can be healthy, however; having too much time alone can lead to a deeper sense of depression and loneliness.  Rather than isolating, connect with nurturing loved ones.  Whether you go to a movie with your best friend, take your grandchildren to the park, eat holiday dinner at a church member’s home, please connect, connect, connect!  Connecting may also require creating a new network of friends or adopted family, which is fine as well.  Even if you do not feel like connecting, try it anyway.  You can do it and will likely feel better that you did.
  4. Help someone else in need – The holiday seasons presents numerous opportunities to serve others. Helping others helps shift our focus to the needs of someone else and has two benefits.  We are meeting the needs of someone else, and we tend to walk away gaining encouragement, knowledge, and or wisdom from the very people we serve.  If you do not where you can serve, simply conduct an internet search on local charities, churches, or organizations in need of volunteers for the holidays.
  5.  Start new family traditions – While holiday activities and traditions do shift as a result of a loved one passing away, new traditions can be started.  Whether you decide that you will be the new host of the holiday party, you will take that 7-day cruise for the holidays, or you will dedicate your time to volunteering, you can decide. You can also ask other family members for new tradition ideas and agree on the ideas together.
  6. Redefine the meaning of the holidays – What did the holiday season mean to you when your loved one was alive? Did it mean family time?  Did it mean great food?  Did the holidays mean multiple houseguests and parties?  Similar to starting new traditions, you can decide what you want the holidays to mean in this new chapter of your life.  Maybe the holidays can now mean taking time to give to those in need?  Perhaps the holidays can mean a time to recharge by taking a vacation. You can decide and define your holiday season.
  7. Join a support group/seek professional counseling – The holiday season is a common time for others to struggle with grief more than other times of the year.  Connecting with others who are experiencing grief can be a helpful way for grievers to gain strength, encourage, and support from one another.  You do not have to experience this season alone. 
Quinnise Pettway