Grieving During the Holidays

Grief is difficult on any day of the year. However, the holidays can be emotionally overwhelming and can intensify the pain and emotions you are feeling after the death of your loved one.

There is tremendous pressure to be joyful and bright during the holidays and we are often surrounded with reminders that this is supposed to be a time of togetherness and celebration. You likely have memories and traditions linked to the holidays that you once shared with your loved one and this can leave you feeling saddened with the realization that the holidays will no longer look the same.

Our Supportive Care Team offers these tips which we hope may assist with your grief during the holidays.

Be compassionate with yourself
Grieving is very difficult and if you are getting up each day, getting dressed, bathing, and eating you are doing okay. Speak to yourself as kindly as you would someone else who is grieving the loss of a loved one.
Give yourself permission to feel what you feel and be gentle with yourself.

Be realistic with your expectations of yourself
Acknowledge how you are feeling and set boundaries and expectations for yourself and others that fit where you are in your grieving process. It is okay to say no to an invitation or be honest with family and friends that you “hope to attend but will have to see how you are feeling that day.” If you do attend, it is also important to plan an exit strategy so you can leave early if you are feeling overwhelmed.

Ask for help
Reach out to others, including friends and family. Ask for help if you need assistance with something specific. Sometimes people really want to be there for you but don’t know how they can be helpful.

Acknowledge this holiday will be different
It is important to acknowledge concerns you have about the holidays so you can communicate with your family and friends to determine whether to keep or modify traditions to celebrate your loved one in a new way. Your family may choose to create a new tradition, such as sharing stories about your loved one around the dinner table or bringing one of their favourite dishes to include them in your celebration. Expect that feelings of grief will be part of your celebration and support one another in grief. Remember, everyone’s grief may be experienced differently.

Donate to a charity in honour of your loved one
As the holidays are often about gift giving, consider donating in your loved one’s name honouring their memory.

Take time to do what you need to get through the holidays. Grief is exhausting, so take naps or five minutes for deep breathing to ground yourself. Practice things that give you energy in difficult times.