How to Survive the Holidays

To find out how to cope with your grief during the upcoming holiday season, check the ShareGrief resource page for some helpful tips.

For many people the holidays are a time of rejoicing, celebrations, and spending time with loved ones. For those who have experienced the death of someone special, the holidays may not be a time of joy or anticipation, as it may have been in the past. Many changes have taken place. How does one "celebrate" the holidays when a loved one is sorely missed? Here are some suggestions that may help survive the holiday season.

This may be a time to create new rituals and traditions that pay tribute to that special person. Light a candle, make a donation to a charity in that person's memory, mention their name in a toast or blessing, prepare one of their favourite foods during the holiday diner, or share favourite stories about the deceased with others.

Perhaps you have previously vacationed to a special place during the holidays. It may be painful to return to that place or repeat the rituals you have shared together, however, it may be a time to create a new holiday experience. Try to find another friend or family member to share time with. If you are alone, you may want to seek out groups in your community or your religious insitiution who travel or do something special for the holidays.

It may be difficult to be with others at this time. Try to attend family gatherings but if you feel the need to escape, give yourself permission to excuse yourself and leave early. You might want to warn your host ahead of time that you may want to leave before the end of the evening.

Be good to yourself. Holidays under normal conditions can be very stressful, but during times of grief, this is increased. Grieving can be emotionally draining, Plan to have plenty of rest and relaxation, however, exercise is also very important. It not only helps your body but it lifts your spirits as well.

You may want to see if there are support groups or workshops in your community that offer ways of coping during the holidays. It is always helpful to have someone to talk to who is experiencing the same experience as you.

Plan something you can look forward to. Perhaps a trip or special event in January or February. This may help you get through the holiday season and lesson the post holiday blues.

Write in a journal or write a letter to your loved one. This may bring to the surface emotions and feelings that you have not been able to share. Although it may be painful, it can help to clear your mind.

Consider finding a "phone buddy". Someone who is in the same situation as yourself. Sharing of feelings and emotions can provide support at a time when you may need it the most.

If you cannot take the crowds or traffic that the holiday season brings, consider catalogue shopping. You may also be able to find someone to do your shopping for you. Don't be afraid to ask for help You may be surprised at the response you get. People do not know how to react to those who are grieving. They often want to help but don't know how. Help them become helpers.

Remember, the first year after the death is the hardest filled with a multitude of memories: the first holiday season, birthday, anniversary, Mother's/ Father's Day, spring, Thanksgiving, vacation and many others. In subsequent years the emptiness, lonliness and sadness will subside. You will never quite be the same, however, you will learn to readjust with that loss as part of your life.

Sandy Lipkus, B.Ed; M.S.W.
Grief counsellor,

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