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 with reminders everywhere that this is supposed to be a time of togetherness and celebration. You may be carrying worries, fears, or doubts in a heart made heavy by grief. It is common for bereaved individuals to feel stressed, distracted, numb, or jealous of others who are celebrating together. You may also experience guilt because you don’t have the holiday spirit you once had.

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.

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 making a donation in your loved one’s name honouring their memory.

Self Care — 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.

For further support please visit our Grief and Bereavement page or contact Sally at: 519-354-3113 ext 2406 or