Grieving During the Holiday Season: A Brief Guide

The holidays are a time of celebration, gatherings, and gratitude; however, painful circumstances beyond our control can inhibit our ability to embody these holiday concepts fully. During times of grief, many complex feelings can arise during this season: some may feel guilty for participating in festivities, or some may feel the need to cancel any celebrations or gatherings. At Close By Me, we know this pain can be all-consuming and unpredictable. For this reason, we have compiled this guide for coping with loss during the holiday season. 

Avoiding Isolation:
It may be tempting to cancel all plans and seek solitude during times of immense emotional pain, as adopting a façade of smiles and a celebratory attitude can seem genuinely impossible, and oftentimes is. It is for this reason that it is important to set realistic expectations for yourself and your feelings. There is no “pause” button for grief; emotions may come up that you are not prepared for, and this is okay. This is a time to call upon your support system, and allow yourself to feel all of the feelings that may arise. Remember that you are on your own timeline and everything that happens in your journey with grief is perfectly valid. Don’t force yourself into situations that will have a negative impact on your mental or physical wellbeing, but remember that socializing with others who love you, care about you, and have your best interests at heart can have a positive impact. “Finding a balance between engaging and not pushing yourself is important” (

Coping With Feelings of Guilt:
Speaking of unrealistic expectations, oftentimes it is the unrealistic expectations others have for us that can be the most emotionally damaging. When others are relying on us for holiday cheer, self-criticism can be high. This self-talk can include thoughts that you aren’t doing enough or you wish you could do more. It is essential to give yourself some reprieve and be kind to yourself as you would be kind to a friend who is going through a difficult time. Additionally, there is a form of guilt where you may feel like you are “not allowed” to enjoy this holiday season because your loved one is no longer there to celebrate with you, and any semblance of joy or happiness can feel like a betrayal. It is important to remember: you are allowed to find times of happiness, laughter, and warmth even while coping with immense loss. Having new positive experiences in no way diminishes the experiences you had with your loved one.

Honor Old Traditions and Create New Ones:
You may not feel up to performing old traditions, especially ones that involve a loved one. However, it can be healing to continue these traditions while allowing a space for the memory of a loved one to live on through special holiday habits. It can also be healing to involve your support system in creating new traditions that honor your loved one. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Cooking or baking your loved one’s favorite foods to enjoy during holiday events.
  2. Decorating with symbols or themes that honor your loved one’s memory.
  3. Writing a letter to your loved one.

We hope this guide is helpful to anyone who may feel intimidated by the incoming occasions. At the very least, if none of the above advice resonates with you, we hope it inspires you to take care of yourself this holiday season. Please feel free to email us at any tips of your own that aren’t covered here so that we can create an even more comprehensive list next year!

Warmest Regards,

Gina M., Gina S., Brit, London, Allison, & Isabel