The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration with our loved ones. Creating new memories after someone you cared about has died may be a painful reminder of that loss. Perhaps carrying on a tradition without that person might be a hard thing to do. We know that grief is an experience that comes in waves and it is common for it to resurge during the holidays.

A way to cope with grief and loss during the holiday is to acknowledge and accept that this season of celebration will look different for you. It is also helpful to lean on your own social supports, such as friends and family, as well as a therapist, letting them know you are having a difficult time and are still grieving.

It can be healing to talk about the person who died, telling stories and looking at photos of them. We don’t move on from grief, we move forward. Although a loved one may be gone, they are still a part of our lives and in our hearts. Talking about that person gives you a chance to embrace them in memory and express gratitude for their impact on your life.

Receiving support from others might also look like allowing others to take on more of the responsibilities around your traditions and giving yourself the grace to rest or take it easy.

As you go about your usual holiday plans, find a way to honor them. Here are some examples below:

-Donate to a charity or organization that might remind you of that person or a purpose that they might have been passionate about.

-Make that loved one’s favorite meal or side dish and share it with others.

-Light a candle in their memory.

-Play that person’s favorite game, movie, or music.

-Have a moment of silence during a holiday dinner for that person.

-Make an ornament, wreath, or holiday decoration that will help you feel like they are still included.

-Purchase a memorial wreath or grave blanket to take to the cemetery.

-Make a grief box, a decorated shoebox to put items and belongings of the deceased.

-Volunteer for a cause you care about. Helping others brings us happiness, knowing that we have made a difference.

-Have a discussion ahead of time with friends or family about new roles and traditions being fulfilled. Decide which traditions may need to be changed or kept.

-Avoid alcohol use. Alcohol is a depressant and it may increase depressive-related symptoms associated with grief and loss.

-Write a letter to the deceased. You may choose to burn it or keep it.

-Attend a grief support group

-Let yourself minimize decorations and gifts if the planning is too overwhelming.

-Buy a special gift for yourself.

Remember that you can still enjoy yourself this holiday season while experiencing moments of grief. There is no right or wrong way to go about coping with grief. Allow yourself to be present with your emotions, whether it be a moment of sadness and having to take a break or letting yourself be present with the people around you in times of joy.

Additional Reading:

Grief and loss throughout the holiday season:

How to Deal With Grief During the Holidays: