How We Coped with Grief during the Holidays — and How You Can, Too

Tree Lined Country Road with Changing Leaves of Red, Gold, Orange, YellowCoping with grief during the first holidays or anniversaries after the death of a loved one or other devastating loss is especially difficult. Your pain is fresh and memories are tender. Emotions stay close to the surface, and those around you tend to be uncomfortable about what to say, how to act, and what to expect as the day approaches.

Like many families, ours had established traditions that carried over from one holiday to the next. Often the menu stayed the same from year to year, the place and time for the get-together was set, and everyone knew what to expect. Each person even sat in the same chair! Sounds boring, but it’s surprising how many families keep the same traditions over the years. We become comfortable.

After my husband died, the thought of celebrating the holidays the same way we always had — but without him there — seemed much too difficult. His absence would have been especially glaring. Who would sit in his chair? How would we respond to the emptiness?

Instead of keeping our old traditions, we decided to try something completely different. Normally, we celebrated holidays at our home, so we decided to go to another relative’s home. We changed the menu. Another time, we went to a restaurant instead. We even planned a picnic for one holiday.

You may think we were avoiding the grief. Believe me, there was plenty of time besides these special days to grieve. But changing our old traditions made the special occasions easier to handle until we became stronger.

At holiday celebrations, don’t be afraid to mention the person you’ve lost. By letting everyone know it’s okay to share memories — and it’s okay if some tears fall — you’ll break the tension and put people at ease, and that includes yourself!

Consider giving the idea a try. It surely helped me and my family cope with grief over the holidays.

© 2011 Judy Brizendine

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2 Responses to “How We Coped with Grief during the Holidays — and How You Can, Too”

  1. Sandra Keith says:

    Judy, This will be my second holidays without Jim. I thought I was doing quite well, actually, until October came around. I began feeling down in the dumps and couldn’t figure out why. We never really celebrated Haloween, so it didn’t make sense to me that I’d be depressed. When the calendar turned to Nov, it got worse. Now I’m dreading the holidays.

    I’ve read your book. I’m going back and read the holidays part again.

    Sure wish I’d had your book 18 months ago. At least now I have a book I can place in the hands of anyone newly in my shoes.

    Blessings,

    Sandy Keith

    • admin says:

      Sandy, I know the holidays are especially difficult. They were for me, too. However, don’t readily conclude that you’re not doing well because of your response. Holidays are a tender and vulnerable time, particularly the first few, and your feelings are not unusual. You’re probably doing better than you think, so don’t get discouraged. I hope you will treat yourself gently, and not try to take on too much or be coerced into celebrating in a way that you’re just not up to. Don’t allow yourself to be alone (even if you think you would prefer to be), but decide what you would like to do and make the suggestion to someone you’d like to spend the time with. Those who love you will be apt to support you, if you explain how what you need and how they can help.

      Thank you for your support for my book. I’m so glad that what I’ve written has been helpful to you in your journey, and that you believe it is valuable for others who are grieving.

      Bless you,
      Judy