How to Cope with Grief During the Holidays and Beyond

How to Cope with Grief During the Holidays and Beyond

The holidays can be the most difficult time of the year for those struggling to cope with grief, loss, or sadness. It all starts to surface around Thanksgiving. It is this time—when we are supposed to be embracing and sharing with loved ones—that there is a stark reminder of what is missing. 

The immense sorrow that emerges this time of the year can cause people to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, avoid any and all celebratory events, or dip into a deep depression. All those things that are meant to create joy — decorations, holiday music, and parties — can be painful reminders of loss.

cope with grief woman

You might be wondering how you are supposed to get through this time without your loved one. You might feel stuck, lost, unable to find any peace. The good news is this time will pass, and some strategies can help you get through and move forward:

1.) Trust that Grief is Necessary for Healing 

Grieving sucks. It is not fun to feel pain and sadness. It is arguably one of the worst things you will ever feel in life. But, it is necessary to allow yourself to grieve so that you can heal. Avoiding your pain isn’t going to make it go away. Yes, temporarily you can numb yourself or pretend that the holidays don’t exist but this will just prolong your sorrow. 

You will find a way to cope with grief and enjoy the holidays again, but first, you have to experience the anguish of going through them without your loved one. 

2.) Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries

It is not up to you to please everyone. Others might pressure you to attend every holiday gathering or participate in every family tradition, but you have the power. You can say “no.” If there is something you know will be too painful, pass on it this time around. If there are conversations you want to avoid at gatherings, give family members a heads up. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone.

cope with grief with family3.) Control What You Can

Obviously, there are many things in life that are out of your control. For example, you can’t choose what the grocery store aisles look like, the decorations in your neighborhood, or the holiday music playing on the radio. But, you can control the decorations in your home, the music you play, and how often you go to the store. These are all things that can help you cope with grief.

Pick what you can control to make the holidays easier on yourself. Maybe do all your shopping online so you don’t have to go out, maybe skip the decorating this year or listen to 90s pop instead of holiday tunes. Choose what you can to lessen your heartache.

4.) Create an Escape Plan

Even though you might be dreading holiday events, you shouldn’t avoid all of them. Pick a couple to attend and create an escape plan. Make sure you can exit the situation if things get unbearable—create an excuse to have while on your family zoom party or drive yourself, or a trusted friend, to an event so you can leave when necessary. 

5.) Let Yourself Feel All the Things 

You might find yourself feeling a wide range of emotions — joy, happiness, sadness, and guilt— all at once. Let yourself feel the good emotions when they come and the bad ones. It is ok to find joy during hard times. It doesn’t have to be all bad. Don’t judge yourself for laughing, soak up those good moments. 

6.) Honor Your Loss

Coming up with a way to memorialize lost loved ones during the holidays and beyond can be a great assistant in the healing process. Maybe you can cook a meal that was once a favorite, post a picture, continue in a tradition you used to do together, or toast to their favorite song. Whatever special way you decide is perfect.

cope with grief ornament

7.) Start New Traditions 

It is ok, and even therapeutic, to start new traditions or alter old ones to fit your new lifestyle. Make it fun. Maybe instead of an elaborate holiday party, you have a holiday PJ party with a few close friends. 

8.) Do Something Kind for Another

One of the best ways to make ourselves feel better is to help others. It is good for our spirits to help those in need and can be great in helping cope with grief. Whether you donate food to a food bank, make a craft for nursing home residents, or volunteer at a shelter, use your grieving energy for something positive and reap the heartfelt benefits. 

9.) Get Help 

If you are struggling to get through the holidays or life in general, don’t wait. Lean on those around you. Ask for help from loved ones. Consider meeting with a therapist, counselor, or other mental health professional. Online therapy and counseling services can be extremely beneficial in helping you healthily cope with grief. 

Ready to begin counseling in Virginia?

Whole Journey works with clients throughout the state of Virginia via our online and telehealth counseling platforms. We have counselors based out of our Richmond and Virginia Beach offices and see clients in-person at our Chesapeake office. Our counselors are professionally trained in helping people to live healthier, happier lives. We want to see you thrive. Call our office at 757-296-0800 to schedule an appointment.