Coping with Grief During the Holidays

The holiday season is approaching and this can be an especially difficult time for people who have recently experienced the death of a loved one. Thinking back on holidays past and family traditions that will never be the same can be extremely painful. People may even be tempted to avoid celebrating the holidays in order to avoid these painful memories. As friends and family start to plan for the holidays, the grieving person should take steps to prepare and to find the support they need to make it through this time of year.

One of the first steps for those who are grieving is to acknowledge the holiday season while focusing on themselves. They need to know it is okay if they do not uphold obligations like they did in the past. Taking others up on offers to cook meals, grocery shop or decorate can help relieve stress. Also, avoiding the hustle and bustle of the season is important. Busy malls and department stores may be overwhelming to a grieving person; shopping online may be helpful. Finding the right pace is key.

When family and friends get together during the holidays, there are many times when alcohol is present. But keep in mind, grief and alcohol don’t mix well. Alcohol may be used as a way to self-medicate and may cause some to slip into depression if used excessively. The grieving person must keep up their strength and remember to take care of their physical needs by eating, getting plenty of sleep, and drinking enough water. This may also mean avoiding alcohol.

Along with those physical needs, exercise is important and has been proven to alleviate depression. Some people even find it therapeutic to do something for themselves during this season. Pampering oneself can help boost energy levels. The grieving person may also find comfort in doing for others during the holiday season by giving back to their community, such as working at a food bank, adopting a needy family, or inviting over a guest who might otherwise be alone for the holiday.

Traditions for many people evoke emotions during the holiday season. After a death, some traditions may become more, or less, important. Some people may find them to be unbearably painful. It is therapeutic to express emotions during those traditions. Crying is okay; it is a natural outlet of grief. A grieving person will have a rainbow of emotions during the season; it is okay to feel joy and happiness along with sadness and anger. Talking with a grieving person about old traditions and emotions they are feeling will help them through the holiday season. Making new rituals can help people cope with the fact that their life has changed. When new rituals are introduced, it does not mean that the old traditions are any less important.

The holiday season can sometimes be the most difficult time of the grieving process, but to some it may be about growth and finding their place without their lost loved one. Most importantly, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holiday season after the death of a loved one.

Margaret Edie
Margaret Edie is a licensed funeral director in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. She grew up in Stafford, Virginia where she graduated from Colonial Forge High School and then graduated from John Tyler Community College in Chester, Virginia with her degree in Mortuary Science. Before starting her career in funeral service, she was a Certified Nursing Assistant with Mary Washington Hospital in the Palliative Medicine Department. Her experience there is what started her journey into furthering her education in funeral service. Margaret feels that it is a calling to become a funeral director, and she takes much pride in providing quality care to families in their time of need. Margaret has been a director at Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home for over three years where she is in charge of the Outreach Program. She holds presentations to educate the community on the process of making funeral arrangements.