How to Get Through the Holidays After the Loss of a Loved one

November 25, 2021

The sting of their first holiday absence can give way to love and support if you accept it

The holidays are both a time to reminisce about holidays that came before and a time to create new memories. If you recently lost someone, or are still mourning someone missing from your life, then the holidays can bring a whole lot of emotion, grief, and sadness.

Although the holiday season is supposed to be filled with joy, for someone suffering from grief, it is challenging to experience it when the person you love is no longer there to share it with you. They are always present in your heart and there with you, but knowing that can sometimes make things more difficult instead of easier.

Everyone grieves differently, so there is no right or wrong way to get through the holiday season. But there are things that you can do to try to ease the blow of feeling lonely and missing the one you love. A good combination between allowing yourself to feel the sting, and keeping the person alive in both mind and spirit, will aid you in making this season, not just one filled with sorrow and loss, but also one that celebrates the person you miss most.

Tips to Get Through the Holidays After the Loss of a Loved one

Celebrating Christmas, grandfather sharing a digital tablet with his grandson.

Try not to Push it out of Your Mind

The last thing we want to do is feel sadness, especially during the holidays. But the only way to begin the grieving process is to allow yourself to feel emotions, which will include sadness and loss. If you continue to negate them and pretend that they aren’t bottling up inside, then that can make things worse.

Nothing is worse than laughing on the outside while you are crying on the inside. The people you love are not expecting you to be over your loss, nor to hide it. If. You want to cry, cry.

If you want to spend time telling stories, do. The best way to get over a hard time in life is to talk about it and let it out. You aren’t being a Debbie Downer by showing your sadness; you are being real and genuine and allowing people who love you to see what is going on inside. In doing so, you will enable them to reach out and help with comfort.

Share Your Stories

A big family sitting at a table on a indoor birthday party, eating.

You are not the only person who lost someone. When someone dies, it is a ripple effect. Not only are there other people who are mourning their loss, but they are also grieving for yours. Misery loves company, not so that everyone can be miserable, but so that you can share the burden.

When we allow others to shoulder our weight, it becomes much less heavy. When we feel as if we are in something alone, it can be genuinely isolating and make our grief worse. But when you include others, allow them to express their sadness too, then it is a much less lonely thing. Misery loves company because company can help to heal everyone’s, heavy heart.

Try Not to Spend the Holidays Alone

Often, when we are sad and feeling grief, we tend to shut people out. We don’t want to show our weakness, share our pain, or bring everyone down. But the holidays are not a time to be alone. If you don’t allow other people around to show you some joy and support, then you will likely sit in your own head. And that is where the sorrow will stay. Surround yourself with people who love and care about you.

Let go of Guilt

One of the hardest things to live with after the loss of a loved one is the survivor’s guilt. When we lose someone very close to us, like a significant other or spouse, we feel guilty that we are still carrying on without the person that we love. We somehow feel undeserving of celebrating, or worry that celebrating and feeling joy is somehow not honoring their memory or forgetting about them.

You have to stop and consider two things. The first is whether your loved one would want you to carry on throughout the holidays sad and remorsefully, or if they would want you to live life to the fullest and carry on. And secondly, consider your spouse had lost you instead, what would you wish for them? You deserve to continue with life, even if it sometimes feels like it is a betrayal to do so.

If there is one thing that you should be reminded of with the passing of your loved one, it is that life is too short to spare a single minute. So you can grieve their absence, but that doesn’t mean you have to wallow in it. Or, that you have to feel bad about living on, during the holidays or otherwise.

Desensitize Yourself, When Possible

After I lost my husband, I could barely look at a picture of him without breaking into tears. So I put the pictures away and refused to put myself through it. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized the more that I saw him, the less sadness I felt.

It might have been that time heals all wounds, or that the more I desensitized myself to the shock that he was no longer there, the less it stung. If you have the kids/grandkids over, it’s okay to break out pictures of Christmas past to reminisce. Don’t leave the good memories behind because they are too difficult to deal with. If possible, use the holidays to celebrate your loss one’s memory and meld the grief you feel with the happiness that they used to bring you.

Try to Avoid Those Triggers That are Painful

You don’t have to be strong for anyone else but you. And it is okay to not be emotionally ready or capable of certain things, like seeing some family members or going specific places that are too painful. You owe no one but yourself comfort when it comes to grieving.

So, if there are some places, people, or events that are just too much, or it’s just too soon, then you have no obligation to attend. The grieving time and process are about you and no one else. So don’t allow anyone to make you feel as if they know what is best or what you should do. If you aren’t ready, say “I am not ready” and realize that if someone is upset that you aren’t attending, that is on them, not you.

Have Some Quiet Time set Aside Alone

There are going to be a lot of emotions going on within that you might not know how to handle. You will have times when you are numb and not sure how to feel. During the times, the last thing you need is a crowd or people fawning over you when you just want to be alone.

It isn’t a good idea to isolate yourself or to sit home alone, but if you feel the need to sit quietly alone, cry, or just be quiet, take the time you need. If you are with others and you feel like you want some time, take it. At times, we just need to be quiet, reflect, and find ourselves, and that is okay.

Create A New Tradition

After my husband passed, it felt like we were all stuck in the past. Our traditions made us all sad because he wasn’t there to enjoy them. I began to see that we all needed a new tradition, set apart to bring newness and to move forward during the holidays.

It is an excellent thing to remember people through tradition, but you might also need something new to pull you forward. Sometimes you have to introduce something new so that you don’t stay stuck in the sadness of the past.

Remember Your Loved One Collectively

At times, the best way to honor someone is to let everyone say what they remember most. The best way to keep your loved one’s memory alive is to tell stories about who they were, their funny moments, and what made them, them. While sitting around the table, have everyone tell their favorite story, or say allowed what they loved or miss most. Sharing memories brings everyone close together.

The first holiday without your loved one is always the hardest. People say that time heals all wounds, but what I have found is that time lessens the sadness that we feel in our hearts, and it replaces it with fond memories of the person who is no longer here.

There will come a time when you will be able to remember the person you lost and not feel the same sting. It will take time, but it will happen. The key is to lean on those around you who are grieving too, not just the loss they feel, but also for you. It is okay to feel joy when it comes, sadness when it hits, and numb when it becomes too much. Just get through the holidays doing what you have to, not what you think you should.


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