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Coping with the Loss of a Loved One during the Holidays


The holidays can be a challenging time for any family or youth. However, some may anticipate the holiday season with real dread and depression if they’ve lost a loved one. Often, the first holiday season after losing a loved one is the most difficult. Family and togetherness are key themes for the holidays. That can make the holidays awfully difficult for people who are grieving the loss of a loved one.  Losing a loved one is life’s most stressful events and can cause a major emotional crisis.

Grief is not an orderly process and there is no right way to grieve. Every person and every family does it differently. This can cause emotions to sometimes collide and overlap, especially during the holiday season when the emphasis is on rebirth and renewal.

There is no way to replace the presence of a loved one who has passed away, but one way of coping is to honor their memory rather than mourn their absence. There are some strategies mental health experts believe may help you or someone you know who is grieving, cope with the holidays.

Express your family’s needs: Those who are grieving may find it hard to participate in all the festivities or may need to let go of unsatisfying traditions. It’s all right to tell people you just aren’t up to it right now or to change plans at the last minute.

Start a new tradition: During a holiday dinner, place a single, lighted candle on the dinner table, leave an empty chair, or say a few words of remembrance.

Change how you celebrate the holidays: Go out to dinner instead of planning an elaborate meal at home or schedule a trip with friends.

Help others in need: It may help to volunteer through a charitable or religious organization. Consider donating to a favorite cause in memory of the person who is no longer with you.

Give yourself and your family time: The grieving process doesn’t automatically end at the six-month or one-year mark. Depending on the strength of the bond that was broken, grief can be life-long. With time, the holidays will become easier to handle.

With support, effort and patience, you and your family will survive grief. One day the pain will lessen, leaving your family with cherished memories of your loved one.

Additional Resources:

Mental Health America

Reachout App: A peer support app for those dealing with mental health issues.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s Online Peer to Peer Anxiety and Depression Support Group