Managing Grief During the Holidays

Happy Holidays and New Year!

“Tis the Season to be Jolly”

“Tis the season to be jolly,” but for some people the holidays intensify feelings of grief for a departed loved one, even if the departed loved one passed away a long time ago. Holidays churn up all kinds of memories and the remembrance of past holidays celebrated together with the departed loved one can be too hard for many people to take. In fact, for some people the approaching holiday season can be a time of dread. On the other hand, some people actually get lifted out of their state of grief by enjoying all the aspects of the holidays and by getting together with family and friends.

Tips for Managing Grief Throughout the Holidays

Stacy Knipe, the Manager of Social Services at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has 10 tips to help you or your loved one manage grief throughout the holidays.

  1. Understand that personal feelings of grief are very real and complex. You do not have to run away from these feelings if they strike you during the holiday festivities. You should ask yourself whether you prefer to be alone or if you prefer to be in the company of family and friends and do what is best for you.
  2. In spite of the pressure all around you to be happy, merry and joyful throughout the holidays, you have a right to feel sad, empty or even angry. You should give in to crying if this should happen and in fact experts believe that allowing yourself to experience the full pain of grief will put you on the road to being healed.
  3. If you make plans to go out to a holiday event or party, but then feel that it is not the place you want to be, just say goodbye and leave. You are not obligated to stay.
  4. If certain holiday traditions seem too overwhelming to do, then skip them. You do not have to do things that will make you feel sadder.
  5. Make sure you are taking good care of yourself, eating good healthy food, getting enough rest and taking time for physical activities and exercise. Besides helping you to feel better and less stressed, this regime will also help to keep you from gaining extra holiday poundage.
  6. Do not use drugs or drink alcohol to make yourself numb to your feelings.
  7. It might help to get out of yourself and do some volunteer work to help others. Also, you may want to make a charitable donation in remembrance of your loved one.
  8. Take it slow, one step at a time and deal with whatever feelings come your way, whether they are weepy or happy. Just feel free to express your feelings in order to cope with your loss.
  9. If you have children who may also be grieving, share with them photos, music or stories that your loved one enjoyed.
  10. Join a support group for people in the same boat you are in, where you can share your grief with them. It might also be a good idea to see a grief counselor or find a good therapist or counselor.

Tears can be Healing

According to some studies crying actually releases anti-stress hormones and pain killers that can make a person feel better. Also, some experts claim that holding back tears and burying feelings of grief can lead to depression. 

More Ways to Cope with Grief

  • Music can be very healing when going through grief and in fact there are many songs out there that may seem to have been written just for you.
  • Some people will find comfort in religious settings and with prayer groups to deal with grief.
  • You might want to honor the memory of your loved one by making a special holiday event in their memory, where you can share all kinds of things about them with family and friends. If your loved one painted, wrote poetry or letters to the editor, played musical instruments or liked certain songs, poems and stories, then share all this, even if you shed some tears.

Holidays in Short or Long-term Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care Facilities

Many seniors in rehab and care facilities have also lost loved ones and also may face feelings of grief during the holidays. However, they are not isolated and may draw support from other residents who also have to deal with feelings of grief. Also, there are professionals on the staff that they can talk to. In fact, they may even be encouraged to talk about their loved ones who have passed on. In general, many facilities really take on a festive look during the holidays with all kinds of programs and holiday parties and events. 

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York has a fantastic array of festive meals, recreational therapy programs and musical concerts for the holiday season. There are also sympathetic staff members who are ready to listen and help someone deal with feelings of grief.


If you or your loved one are suffering from feelings of grief due to the passing of a loved one, it is important to learn what steps to take to deal with these feelings, which may be triggered by all kinds of memories that the holiday season invokes.

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