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Grieving During the Holidays

How To Hold Space for Your Grief During a Time of Joy

During the holiday season, it may seem like everywhere you look people are happy and having a great time with their loved ones. If you’re grieving, this may leave you feeling isolated and all alone in your feelings. You may even feel like you need to pretend you feel happy, especially when you’re around other people. First and foremost, there’s no wrong way to feel, especially when you're grieving. Even when the world seems to be telling you this season is a time of happiness and joy, it's important to honor the emotions you’re experiencing and show yourself some grace.

In this blog, we’re going to take a closer look at some ways to get through (and possibly even find some joy yourself) this festive time of the year while still holding space for your grief.

Some Important Things to Remember About Grief & the Holidays

As much as we wish it would, grief doesn’t go away just because it’s the holidays. Believe it or not, that's okay — it's not supposed to. Your feelings are valid and you don't have to pretend they're not just because of the date on the calendar.

If your loss was recent, this may all make sense to you. But what if you lost a loved one a while ago? You might be surprised that your grief has popped up again, but don't be... grief (both old and new) can be amplified during the holidays. Even if you thought you weren’t grieving anymore, you might notice yourself feeling sad or missing your lost loved one more than usual. That’s completely natural.

Your grief may be even more pronounced during the holidays if you’ve avoided working through the grieving process. This is because holiday traditions and time with loved ones can bring unresolved grief emotions to the forefront. This might feel frustrating for you — you've worked hard to avoid grief for so long... why is it coming up now? Be patient with yourself and when you're ready reach, reach out for some added support for your grief.

Tips for Getting Through the Holidays When You’re Grieving

It's okay to miss your “person” more than usual during the holidays, and it’s okay to not feel happy and joyful all the time. If you’re struggling more than usual with your grief during the holidays, consider taking some of the following steps to hold space for your grief while still finding enjoyment in the holidays:

  • Honor your loved one’s favorite traditions. Even though they’re no longer with you, include them in what you do this year by sharing your favorite memories of them and taking time to think of all the experiences you had with your lost loved one in years past.

  • Keep your loved one into your holiday celebration. It’s okay to put out their stocking, light a candle for them, cook their favorite dessert, or otherwise keep them as part of your celebration.

  • Create new traditions for yourself. Do something different this year that’s all about you. This can help you to move through your grief and begin to heal.

  • Hold space for your grief. Let yourself cry, be sad, feel angry, etc., but don’t let that be the only focus of your holiday. Carve out a certain time during the day or week to just be emotional. If emotions come up at other times, that’s okay too.

  • Write a letter to the person who you miss so much and tell them all the ways you’re thinking of and honoring them this holiday season.

  • Get plenty of exercise. This helps to boost endorphins and keep you feeling happier. It can also help to focus your energy.

Still Need Help Getting Through the Holidays While Grieving?

One last thing you can do to help you manage all the emotions related to grief at the holiday season – talk about it. Connect with friends and loved ones, especially those who also knew your lost loved one. You can also consider joining a grief support group. This will give you a group of people who understand what you’re going through to chat with through the holiday season and year-round. Finally, you can always make some time to chat with a therapist who can help process grief and loss. If you’re looking for a therapist in San Diego, I hope you’ll consider chatting with me at Beachside Counseling. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you want some support during this difficult time.

Photo by Julia Volk from Pexels


About the Author

Christine Tomasello is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Founder of Beachside Counseling in San Diego, CA, where she helps clients work through grief and loss, major life changes, and challenging relationship patterns. Christine identifies as a helper, healer, and highly sensitive person (HSP), and specializes in working with other therapists, helpers, healers, and HSPs.


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