7 Strategies for Managing Grief During the Holiday Season

Many people who are grieving the death of a loved one dread the coming of the Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas and New Year’s season.  They anticipate pressure to “act normal” and participate in festivities and family traditions when they feel sadness, loss and emptiness.  What follows are some strategies that might be helpful if you’re in this situation.  If there are children in the family to consider you may not be able to try all of these ideas, but do what you can.

  1. Do what feels right for you. Give yourself permission to say no to at least some of your traditional activities and spend the holidays in whatever way seems most nurturing for where you are emotionally.  It may help to talk someone you trust to help sort out what feels right.
  2. Allow yourself to change the plans you’ve made if they don’t feel right when the time comes to do them. Don’t worry about hurting other people’s feelings.  Either they’ll understand or they won’t, but when you’re grieving you must do whatever you can to care for yourself.  You’ll be modeling healthy behavior for grieving, and others may learn from your example.
  3. Talk about the person who died. When you talk about your loved one others might get the message that it’s ok to do so, and they may join in and share memories of that person.  Such sharing can be comforting and healing.
  4. Don’t pressure yourself to “put on a happy face”. Many people worry that they’ll bring others down if they’re honest about their emotions of grief.  Talking about your grief may be the most helpful thing you can do for yourself during the holiday season.  You may need to be selective about the people with whom you’re this honest.
  5. Know that your energy will be less than normal. Mourners often feel tired from the hard work of their grieving.  Remember and respect that you have fewer reserves to do all the usual holiday things.
  6. Do all you can to reduce stress. Holidays seem to present endless opportunities for stress.  Try to stay in tune with your “stress alerts” and respect them by saying no to possible stressful situations or activities.
  7. Engage in holiday rituals to remember your loved one. Attend a community service (some are listed in this newsletter), create a memory book, light a candle in honor of your absent loved one, make your loved one’s favorite dish, invite friends and family to your home to share memories of that person, etc.  We have more ideas, so feel free to call us and ask!

On behalf of everyone at Brattleboro Area Hospice I wish you peace during this holiday season.


Connie Baxter

Bereavement Care Coordinator