Coping With Grief During the Holidays
coping during the holidays

Holidays are often considered a time for celebrating. We honor traditions and reminisce about past holidays and the people we shared them with.  The very thing we love about holidays can be the source of pain and renewed grief if someone we love is no longer with us to share in these moments.

Why is this time of year so difficult for those of us grieving the loss of a loved one?

  • It reinforces the idea that things will not be the same without that person.
  • You may feel some guilt for trying to celebrate a holiday or special occasion.
  • Awkward, painful moments may arise while celebrating that magnify the loss.


If you recognize that the upcoming holidays may be challenging there are some things you can do that will help you to cope. It means you may have to be proactive and plan ahead but this will be time well spent.

Ways to Cope During the Holidays

  1. Honor old traditions if that feels good. If not create new traditions that are meaningful.
  2. Give yourself permission to get more support from family, friends, counselors, clergy.
  3. Think about previous ways you coped with losses in the past that were successful and revisit them.
  4. If the stress of gifts, cooking, being social, feels too stressful/painful, ask family or friends to help with cooking. Ask for a year off buying gifts. Ask for permission to take time off to take care of yourself and focus on self care. It is OK to take time away from the festivities if you feel you need to.
  1. Be proactive. Have an honest discussion with the people you normally spend time with at a holiday and discuss what you would like to do and why. That helps you feel like you are not planning on your own and it is more of a group, co-operative event. You may not all agree but at least you will understand everyone else’s position.
  1. Find new ways of honoring the memory of a loved one. If they loved flowers plant or donate a tree. If they loved children, donate to a children’s charity in the name of your loved one. Maybe you might want to volunteer at a program that was meaningful to a loved one who has passed away.

Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW

Iris Waichler has been a patient advocate and licensed clinical social worker for 40 years. She is an award winning author. Her latest book, Role Reversal How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents received a Finalist Best Book of 2016 Award from USA Books. Ms. Waichler has done individual, group and family counseling with patients and families facing catastrophic illnesses. She has done freelance writing on health and patient advocacy topics for 16 years. Her website is
 and her Facebook page is
Mom’s Choice Gold Award Winner for Best Book of the Year.
Winner of the National Parenting Publications (NAPPA) Gold Award for best book of the year.
Winner of the finalist award for Foreword Magazine 2007 non-fiction Book of the Year.
Twitter @IrisWaichler
Written by Iris Waichler
Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW is the author of Role Reversal How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents. Role Reversal is the winner of 5 major book awards. Ms. Waichler has been a medical social worker and patient advocate for 40 years. She has done freelance writing, counseling, and workshops on patient advocacy and healthcare related issues for 17 years. Find out more at her website

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