Seasonal Grief: Handling the Holidays Without Your Loved One

Nov 09, 2023

 Seasonal Grief: Handling the Holidays Without Your Loved One

People often associate the holidays with joy and revelry, but this time of the year can be overwhelming for those navigating grief. Everyone may experience loss differently, but there are steps that can make it easier to handle the holiday season.

Books, movies, and television paint a rosy picture of the holidays. But the season can wear painfully thin when you’re living with grief. And, whether you’ve experienced a recent loss or one in the past, it can become increasingly difficult to celebrate under the constant barrage of “all is merry and bright.” As these feelings increase, those in grief can feel more isolated and alone.

But you’re not alone. 

Our team at Associates in Behavioral Science understands that grief can seem overpowering and affect people in unique ways — and that the holiday season can make these feelings even more challenging. That’s why we offer personalized grief counseling services for any type of loss, whether you’re mourning a lost pet, loved one, friendship, a job, your health, or financial or personal safety.

If you’re facing the holidays with feelings of grief or loss, these strategies can help make the season a little more manageable. 

1. Give yourself space

It’s easy to feel as though we have to act or behave in a certain way, especially during the holidays. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge your feelings during this emotional time — they’re real, and they matter.

Grief has an emotional and physical impact on the body. Recognizing your feelings allows you to take breaks when needed, get plenty of rest, and eat healthy foods. All of these actions can help support your emotional and physical health, especially with the increased stresses of the holiday season.

Don’t forget that grief takes time. Don’t rush yourself, and do what feels right for you.

2. Share how you’re feeling

On top of acknowledging your grief and emotions, you should also share these feelings with those you trust. Don’t hesitate to let those you’re closest to know that you’re struggling, and give them the tools they need to help you manage the season. 

For example, let people know if it’s okay to talk about the person who is no longer there. Or encourage them to listen while you share stories or feelings — without offering advice on the subject. 

Remember, it’s natural for people to want to “help” those in grief. So, clearly communicate your needs during the holidays so they can provide the support you need the most.

3. Connect with others

Spending the holiday season with others is often the last thing a person wants to do when grieving. But social connections with others provide tremendous healing power, especially during the holidays.

And, if you don’t have friends or family you can lean on, there are other ways to find support. Our team recommends connecting with a grief support group, talking to a therapist, or getting active in your community through volunteerism or organized group activities.

Taking these steps can help you find others who understand what you’re going through, create a loving support network, and keep your mind off your guilt while providing ways that make you feel good by helping others.

4. Create a new ritual

One of the best and worst parts about the holidays has to do with traditions. After all, these beloved rituals are often things people look forward to most every year. They also make it painfully obvious when a loved one is no longer there to join in. However, actively keeping their memory alive can help keep their spirit close during the holiday season.

Types of rituals that help seasonal grief might include:

  • Playing their favorite music
  • Making their favorite foods
  • Decorating in their favorite colors
  • Telling stories about them
  • Displaying their photo in prominent locations

You can even create new traditions that honor your loved one, like lighting a special candle or offering a tribute to them — silently or aloud.

5. Work with an expert

Finally, if you feel overwhelmed by grief or unable to manage the holiday season, our team can help. While it may seem tempting to turn to self-soothing behaviors like substance use or overeating, these can worsen your symptoms. 

No matter what’s causing your grief or how much time has passed since your loss, our experts can provide the tools you need to manage the days ahead.

Do you need help managing grief during the holidays? Don’t wait to schedule a consultation with our compassionate and experienced team at Associates in Behavioral Science in Berwyn or West Dundee, Illinois today.