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by Sierra McCahon   |   December 20, 2019

5 Tips for Dealing with Grief over the Holidays

The holiday season can be a joyous time of year, but for those grieving, it can be incredibly challenging. For some, this may be the first holiday season without their loved one and the idea of “celebrating” could feel like torture. Putting up decorations can be a reminder of those that are no longer with us. Many families may even feel like skipping the holidays all together. Even when death is expected, nothing can really prepare for the loss of someone you love. Grief is not linear and is an essential part of healing.

  • Be patient.

    Psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross theorized that there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While the theory is widely supported, it’s far more complicated. Grief is not a race, it’s a journey. You could feel these stages at various points of your life, it could be a year after, or eight years after. It’s important to be patient with your loved ones and yourself through the process. Take as much time as you need and know that it’s okay to grieve.
  • Decide the traditions you want to keep, which one’s you want to change, and the new traditions you want to build in memory of your loved one.

    Continuing holiday traditions can be very triggering and it’s important to make sure to let everyone know what you DO and DO NOT feel comfortable with. It’s okay to adjust your traditions to help you cope, and it can also be beautiful to create a new tradition to celebrate your loved one. Remember to do what’s best for you and your family.
  • Donate to a charity to honor them.

    Helping someone who is going through the same battle that your loved one fought can be incredibly healing. You can help more patients and their families in their battle to fight prostate cancer by donating at zerocancer.org.
  • Get support.

    If you or your loved one is struggling this holiday season, know it’s okay to need additional support. Reach out to whomever you feel comfortable with, be it a friend or a professional. Do not suffer in silence, you are loved and your loved one would want you to take care of yourself.
  • Take Care of yourself.

    Taking care of yourself is one of the most important things to do when grieving, but often it can be the first to fly out the window. For me, it’s been incredibly helpful to journal how I am feeling. You could have a good cry while watching your favorite movie, or you can dance it out in your kitchen. It’s important to allow yourself to express how you feel. It’s also incredibly important to make sure that you are eating right, drinking water, getting enough sleep, and exercising. I have also found it incredibly helpful to meditate. There are great meditation resources like headspace, that can guide you through the process.

Lastly, remember that all of us grieve differently. My journey will not be the exact same as yours and even people in your family may grieve differently. There is no mark of time that we should feel better, and it’s okay to not be okay. But grief does get easier and evolves over time. Do not feel guilty; your loved one will want you to continue on. “Grief only exists where love lived first,” and you can carry their love with you every single day. Know that you are loved, you are supported, and you are not alone. 

If you or someone you know needs urgent help, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States.