Coping with Grief During the Holidays

As the winter holidays approach, we are bombarded with messages that this will be a season of joy, peace, and love.

And yet for those who are grieving, any holiday can be a time of greater sadness, stress, and isolation.  Wonderful memories of happy times may bring pain and tears now, or, if the holidays have always been a difficult time, there may be guilt or regret.  While those around us may be in festive spirits, we may be reminded even more of our loved one who will not be celebrating with us.  We may lack the energy or interest to plan or attend holiday events.  There may be family conflicts related to where and how the holiday will take place.  Many questions and fears may arise, such as:

  • Who will cut the turkey?
  • What if I start to cry in the middle of dinner?
  • What if I just don’t want to celebrate this year?
  • How will I manage to just cope with getting through the day?

It is important for those who grieve to recognize limitations—we are not functioning at normal capacity and must reevaluate our priorities.  This means that we must:

  • Realize that we have physical and emotional limitations.
  • Know that there is no right or wrong way to respond.
  • Set limits with others.
  • Recognize that the absence of a loved one will be painful no matter what we do, and thus allow for the pain.
  • Remember that it is natural and appropriate to miss someone we love.

Discuss and plan ahead with family and friends.  Knowing what to expect will reduce everyone’s anxiety.