Coping with Grief During the Holiday Season

For many, November marks the beginning of the holiday season. It generally represents a time of thankfulness, togetherness, tradition, and family. However, if you have lost a loved one, it may be difficult to get into the holiday spirit or look forward to family traditions. It’s not uncommon for grief to be sparked by holidays or other milestones in life, and it can be brought on by the reminder of the loss, changes in traditions, or the need to create new traditions.

There is no “right way” to grieve the loss of a loved one, and for some, grief may resurface like a wave, ebbing and flowing over time. Here are a few ways that you can cope with grief during the holiday season and beyond:


Take care of yourself physically and emotionally.

Grief is challenging both physically and emotionally. It can manifest with physical symptoms, such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, muscle or joint pain, or even headaches, as well as with emotional symptoms, such as sadness, anger, or anxiety. Getting plenty of sleep, taking time to eat healthy meals, staying hydrated, and moving your body can all help manage the symptoms of grief. Self-care is important all the time, but even more important during difficult times. Make it a priority to do enjoyable and relaxing activities that rejuvenate your mind and body.


Be aware of grief triggers.

Be mindful of the people, places, or things that may stir up tough emotions, so that you can prepare yourself to handle them.


Avoid unhealthy coping strategies.

Overindulging in food, alcohol, or other substances or engaging in reckless behavior to numb emotions does not make them go away and can negatively impact your mental health.


Set realistic expectations.

As far as holiday plans are concerned, do what feels right, knowing that your plan this year does not need to be the plan for any year after. Be realistic about what you feel up to doing both physically and emotionally. Each person copes with grief differently, so honor your own unique needs.


Embrace moments of positivity.

As challenging as it might be to identify good things during times of grief, it is beneficial to your mental well-being to look for moments of positivity, even if small. Rediscovering joy and finding contentment after a loss is an important part of the healing process.


Reach out for support.

Connect with trusted family and friends for help during challenging times, or consider joining a grief support group to meet with others who may be in similar situations. It can be helpful to share memories and talk about your loved ones with others. Your mental health benefit through ERC is also a wonderful resource to support you in coping with grief during the holidays.


Resources: (1) What’s Your Grief. (2016, November 22). Surviving Thanksgiving: 6 tips for grievers. Retrieved from (2) Grief & Trauma Healing Network. (n.d.). How to survive thanksgiving when your heart is breaking from grief. Retrieved from

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