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Tips for Overcoming Holiday Grief

Shortly after Halloween ends, stores swap out their decorative inventory for Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. Everywhere you turn, you see festive table decorations, lighted trees, menorahs and New Year’s party hats. It is a joyful time for most. However, it can be troublesome and filled with grief when you have recently lost a loved one. That’s why it is extremely important to understand how to cope during the holidays. So today on the blog we are sharing holiday grief tips.

Understanding Grief in Today’s Society

There’s a saying that explains why grief can be so difficult: “As much as you love, it’s as hard to heal.” Grief is an internal process. There isn’t a cookie-cutter approach to handling grief, and invariably it will be different for different people—even within a family.

In the past, many people wore black for a year to let the world know they were in mourning. It was the very public display of alerting family, friends and co-workers that you might avoid society for a time to mourn your loss. Today this practice has fallen by the wayside.

After the death of a family member or friend, we are forced back into our daily routine all too quickly. “Normal life” is supposed to resume even if we are still in mourning. Society wants us to move forward, and often sooner than we might be ready.

Grief can affect every aspect of our life. It can be difficult to:

  • Feel joy from those activities that you previously enjoyed (called anhedonia)
  • Sleep, which in turn can compromise your health
  • Remember simple tasks
  • Socialize and so you shy away from friends
  • Pray as you start to question your spirituality
  • Let yourself cry

It is totally natural to flip flop across an array of emotions. It can even be cyclical and change depending on what phase you are in your life. Nevertheless, we all have a natural ability to heal our psyche.

Holiday Grief Tips

Grief, especially holiday grief, is like an elephant in the room.

If you recently lost a loved one, recognize that the holidays are going to be different and that’s okay. In time, you will learn how to embrace the change—it just takes patience and understanding.

Whatever upcoming holiday you celebrate, there is a good chance it might be more difficult than you expected to cope and get through the season.

Here are some holiday grief tips that can help.

Communication: Like with almost every aspect of life, communication is important. If you are feeling guilty about not having the holiday spirit and possibility letting others down, share your thoughts. Your feelings are yours and yours alone. If there is disagreement in the house and within your family about the holidays, talk and be honest. Discuss what you’d like to do and what will be too difficult. Compromise goes hand in hand with communication.

Holiday decoration: When the holidays roll around, there are numerous decisions to make, especially when it comes to decorating. Do what is right and good for you. It is your option whether you decorate like you have in the past or scale it back this holiday season.

Attending holiday parties: Keep in mind that it is entirely up to you whether you attend a holiday party. If you decide to attend, talk to the host  before the party so you can find out if there’s a place you can go should you need to take a moment for yourself. Additionally, try driving yourself to the party. This way, if you need to leave early, you are not depending on another individual. You can leave when you’ve had enough holiday cheer.

Holiday cards: If in years gone by you’ve sent out Christmas cards or a letter, rethink how you tackle the task this year. Maybe go a different route and send a holiday group email. Or perhaps it might be easier to post a message on social media for family and friends. On the other hand, if you can handle a letter, go for it. There is no right or wrong way, and nothing is written in stone.

Gift giving: In the past, gift selection and giving was rewarding and something you always looked forward to, even if it meant battling Black Friday crowds. But what if this year you can’t face leaving the house to go shopping? Solution: You can always shop online or grab gift cards for the recipients on your list.

Holiday food preparation: Food preparation during the holidays can be a landmine of emotions, especially with the loss of the family matriarch. If this sounds familiar, try splitting the cooking and baking responsibilities.

holiday grief

Healthy habits: If you are battling grief, you need to take care of yourself. Granted it might be a struggle just to get out of bed, but try. Around the holidays, take a walk and get out in the sunshine for some fresh air. With the multitude of holiday food indulgences available around every corner, try to eat and make healthy food choices as much as possible.

Hydrate: Grief can leave you dehydrated whether you shed tears or not. When a person becomes dehydrated, short-term memory can be affected adversely. So drink plenty of water.

Start a journal: Writing your emotions can help you process what is going on inside your head. Journaling is ongoing support for you—paper or computer—it’s your way to express yourself.

Permission to be sad: During the holidays, it is okay to give yourself permission to be sad. The same holds true for kids. Allow yourself the opportunity to grieve and cry. On the flip side, if something makes you happy or laugh, go for it.

Over the years and during future holiday seasons, you will probably experience grief bursts, which can be triggered by a million different things: It could be a song, smell, photo or memory. It’s a reminder to us all that we’re human, and we remember the deep bond and love of our lost loved one with our entire being.

Across Chapters Health System affiliates—Good Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospice and LifePath Hospice, there are holiday memorial events that allow attendees to remember loved ones in special ways. Good Shepherd Hospice hosts Lights of Remembrance, please click here for more details. LifePath Hospice hosts Light Up a Life, please click here for more details. For more than 20 years, HPH Hospice has maintained a tradition of remembrance and comfort during the holidays. Through the display of memorial ornaments placed on trees in Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, it is a special way to remember loved ones. For more information, please click here.

At Chapters Health System and its affiliatesGood Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospice and LifePath Hospice, every day is devoted to educating our patients and keeping them in the place they call home. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients, young and old alike, and their families are able to make educated decisions about important healthcare matters. For more information, please call our helpful Chapters Health team at 1.866.204.8611 or send an email to

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Corporate Communications for Chapters Health System, manages all content and communications for the not-for-profit organization.

Starting New Holiday Traditions

Do you have a family tradition of writing down why you are thankful on Thanksgiving?  Perhaps every year on the last night of Hanukkah, the kids gather around the menorah to take a picture lit only by the glow of the candles? Or maybe for the past 20 years, every family member had to attend Christmas dinner in an ugly holiday sweater? No matter what your religion or cultural background, family holiday traditions can be simple or complex.

If this is your first holiday since the death of your loved one, you don’t have to stick to old family traditions. This season feel free to give yourself permission to change it up. Nothing prevents you from going back to the tried-and-true tradition when you (and the family) are ready.

If the family lost a parent, try making something special with the kids. Give them choices and get them involved. Children are flexible and can adapt to change, sometimes more readily than adults.

When we think of grief, the conjured image is often dark. Therefore, try adding color throughout the house, even in unexpected ways. Instead of candy and chocolate, keep a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter. When you walk by the bowl, reach for brightly colored fruit rather than an unhealthy food choice like potato chips.

Holidays are also a good time to memorialize and remember a lost loved one. Light a candle. Put out a place setting for the person who is gone. Plant a tree. Create a butterfly garden. Donate to a cause that meant something to your lost loved one. Do whatever makes you and your family feel better during the holidays.

holiday grief


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