Coping with the Holidays

The holidays can be a difficult time for anyone, but are especially challenging for those who are grieving the loss of someone close to them. At a time when people are expected to be happy and festive, the bereaved often feel isolated, sad, angry, and depressed. The tips below are a guide to help you through this holiday season.

  • Honor your feelings

    Whatever it is you are feeling this holiday season, let yourself feel it. If you are feeling sad and donít want to join in the celebration, give yourself permission not to. Conversely, if you are looking forward to the holidays and are feeling a little happy, be joyous and enjoy.

  • Plan ahead

    Decide beforehand how you want to spend your holidays and who you want to spend them with. The writing exercise can help you with this.

  • Take care of yourself

    People who are grieving are more prone to illness. During the stressful holiday season good self-care is of the utmost importance. Eat a balanced diet, get some exercise, rest, and refrain from use of drugs or alcohol.

  • Say no!

    Now more than ever, it is important you not over-extend yourself. You are going through a difficult time and it is okay to say no.

  • Create new traditions

    Some traditions lose their "zing" or are no longer even possible after a family member has died. If old traditions are still pleasurable, continue them. If not, you might want to try something new (have someone else bake the holiday meal, open gifts at a different time, spend the holidays away from home, etc.).

  • Dealing with the empty chair

    You may feel overwhelmed as you face an empty chair at the table. Deciding what to do about the empty chair is a personal decision. Some people leave the chair empty to represent their loss. Others have a special family member or dear friend sit in the chair. You may even want to remove the chair altogether. Do what feels right for you.

  • Memorialize your loved one

    Share your favorite memories, light a candle, put up a picture of your loved one at the dinner table, or make a toast in their name.

© Jill Lehman, MFT

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