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  • Writer's pictureMisti Luke, LCSW

Coping With Grief During The Holidays

Updated: Aug 31, 2019

Missing and remembering lost loved ones during the holiday season can trigger a wide range of uncomfortable emotions. Longing for past Christmas traditions, and feelings of irritability or sadness are not uncommon.

Some wonder how they will manage to get through what’s supposed to be the most joyful time of year without becoming overwhelmed to the point of completely breaking down. Whether this is your first, fifth, or fifteenth year without your loved one, here are five ways to help manage your grief, bring meaning to the feelings of loss, and still enjoy the holiday season.

Misti Luke, LCSW- Coping With Grief During The Holidays

Make a donation, or dedication– Donating to a worthy organization in your loved one’s honor can help keep their memory alive, and give the holidays a new sense of purpose.

If your budget is minimal this year, consider giving of your service to a cause that was near and dear to your loved one’s heart.

This holiday season, give yourself the gift of time- Remember there’s no rule which dictates how you need to spend the holidays. Give yourself permission to grieve, feel sadness, and remember your loved one in a way that feels right to you.

Understand that it’s okay to choose to stay home alone if attending traditional events feels too painful for you. However, if being in the company of others will help ease feelings of loneliness, give yourself permission to participate in events, and enjoy yourself without feeling guilty about it. You deserve it.

Create a book of memories - Many find it therapeutic to celebrate the past life of a loved one by compiling memories such as old photos, letters, or cards into a special memory book.

Shadow boxes can also be used to celebrate life by displaying some of your loved one’s favorite possessions. If you aren’t crafty in nature, consider hiring a seamstress to create a quilt using your loved one’s favorite articles of clothing.

Change traditions- For some, traditional family gatherings might be too tough without your loved one present, especially if this is the first year of their passing. If so, consider changing the time, date, or even location of the get-together.

For those who typically host holiday events, don’t be afraid to nominate another family member, or friend, for that role. Passing on the role of host/hostess will allow you to attend the event as a guest, which might be less stressful.

For those looking for more drastic change, destination holidays are becoming more popular. Sometimes booking a change of scenery all together can help bring peace of mind.

Ask for Help- If you’re struggling to complete everyday activities, feel lonesome, or need a shoulder to cry on, don’t be afraid to let others know. Chances are another family member, friend, or coworker is perched in the wings, just waiting to lend a hand.

Finally, missing loved ones during the holidays is natural, and how you choose to cope may change from year-to-year. Throughout your grief process, don’t forget to hang on to the idea that most people do enjoy the holidays again in time.

Experiencing sentimental or gloomy moments is not a bad thing; but a normal part of life after loss. Understanding the list above is far from complete, hopefully it will encourage you to think outside the box this year, while keeping your lost loved one close to your heart.

Misti Luke is a licensed behavioral health therapist in beautiful Broken Bow, Oklahoma. For correspondence email



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