Grieving the loss of a loved one over the holidays

Three lit candles with decorative lights in the background

After losing a loved one, the Christmas season can be a challenging time to grieve and heal. You may experience a wide array of emotions that become especially difficult to process amid festive holiday décor, gatherings and activities.

It’s important to give yourself compassion and grace, knowing that healing after a loss is a journey that takes months and looks different for everyone.

Sarah Twombly and Adam Bissell are staff members at Good Samaritan Society — Prescott Hospice & Marley House and offer advice on how to cope through the holiday season while honoring your deceased loved one.

Determine what will be difficult

To help you prepare for conversations or gatherings, “try on” your fears and anxieties to identify the moments you dread, doing the hard work of examining your heart.

  • Is it being alone or in a crowd?
  • Having to be a host or not being invited to a gathering?
  • Going to church?
  • Writing and receiving Christmas cards?

Create a specific list of what will and won’t help your grieving process. When others ask how they can support you, don’t be afraid to share what’s on your heart. If you need to sit in the back during a church service so you have the option to leave, or you want to gather for Christmas on a different day, let those around you know what you need.

Give yourself permission to adapt

It’s OK if your holiday traditions look a little different this year. In fact, it may be worth considering changing how you celebrate the holidays and resume traditions the following year. Consider volunteering on days that you know will be difficult, such as at your local food pantry or community center. Often one of the most healing things we can do is to help ease someone else’s hardship.

Honor your loved one

Give yourself time each day to grieve. Tying to seem joyful when you feel sad may leave you overwhelmed and discouraged. Instead, find a way to honor your loved one’s presence in your heart and mind.

  • Create memorial gifts for family members, such as a collection of favorite recipes of your deceased loved one
  • Donate to a charity to support a cause they believed in
  • Light a candle in your home in their memory
  • Place a special ornament on your Christmas tree
  • Purchase a Christmas tree and donate it to a hospice, nursing home or shelter

If you're struggling this holiday season, find encouragement in these resources

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