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Handling Grief During the Holidays: 10 Tips to Survive Christmas Without a Loved One

February 01, 20247 min read

The holiday season can be a challenging time, especially if you're struggling with the loss of a loved one. Christmas, in particular, may trigger a wave of emotions that can be overwhelming. In this blog post, we'll explore 10 practical tips to help you not only survive but navigate through the festive season while honouring your grief.

1. Talk About Your Grief

It's essential to open up and discuss your feelings with supportive friends or family. Sharing your emotions can be a relief, providing a healthy outlet for the pain you may be experiencing. Share memories of your loved one, keeping their spirit alive in conversation.

Perhaps, you used to have some special traditions which, now, are no longer possible. Before diving into plans, think ahead about what you might find difficult. Be open with others about the possible challenges. Share that it might be a bit harder this year, giving others the green light to express their emotions too. No need to wear a brave face - it's okay to feel and talk about your emotions.

2. Keep Things Flexible

Keep things flexible

Grief can produce a roller coaster of emotions that may ebb and flow. One day you may be feeling you can handle whatever life throws at you and the next you may feel overwhelmed by the simplest of tasks. Keep this in mind when making plans. 

The holiday season can strain family ties at the best of times because there can be so many unexpressed and unrealistic expectations. This is magnified when you throw coping with loss into the mix.

If you find yourself feeling the pressure, remember to be aware of your needs and be open and flexible with others. Can't handle a big gathering? You don’t have to. Be creative and kind to yourself and negotiate something that will be a win-win. Try a family walk or a virtual call instead. Explore different ways to connect that will work for you.

3. Look After Yourself

I know for myself that Christmas and the New Year can be very busy seasons at the best of times. I have had to learn the hard way that trying to please everyone is an impossible task. This has often led to saying yes to too many things and then feeling too tired to enjoy most of them!

Self-care becomes even more critical during difficult times. Prioritise your well-being by maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough rest, and doing activities that bring you joy. Taking care of yourself physically and emotionally is a crucial aspect of the healing process.

Prioritise your well-being. Be very careful about saying yes to things and be open about what it is you need and how you’re really feeling. Small steps can make a big difference.

4. Limit Alcohol

Limit alcohol

While it may be tempting to use alcohol as a coping mechanism, moderation is key. Excessive drinking can intensify emotions and hinder your ability to cope effectively. There are some great non-alcoholic drinks available that allow you to celebrate without the side effects. I recently discovered Fizzero from M&S. It was a delicious alternative to Prosecco.

Opt for alternative ways to manage your stress and emotions, such as deep breathing or engaging in activities you enjoy.

If you do find yourself overindulging, check out tip 3 about the importance of self care, have an accountability buddy and, if necessary, seek professional help.

5. Do It Differently

Consider breaking away from traditional holiday routines that may be too emotionally challenging. Changing the location of celebrations or doing things differently can help create a new atmosphere that feels more manageable.

Motivation can be tough after a loss so focus on doing what is meaningful for you in this season. Do the things that will bring you moments of joy, peace, comfort and calm.

6. Make New Traditions

Ready for a change? Create new traditions that are meaningful for you and fit your life now. This could be lighting a special candle, creating a memory board, or preparing their favourite dish. Making positive associations with the holiday season can aid in the healing process.

7. Lend a Hand

Lend a hand

Helping others during the holiday season can be a powerful way to shift your focus and find purpose. Volunteer your time at local charities or offer assistance to those in need. Acts of kindness can foster a sense of connection and purpose.

We have a local restaurant that offers free Christmas dinner to those who are lonely or struggling financially. What a wonderful, kind thing to do! We, ourselves, were going to be alone as our children are visiting their respective partners’ families for Christmas this year. So we decided to open up our home to others who might be on their own and are expecting about 12 people. I’m so excited about it!

Offer a helping hand to someone in need—it's Christmas, after all. Looking upward and outward helps change perspective and reminds you that you are not alone. You will get such a satisfying feeling when someone is grateful for your kindness.

8. It's OK to Be OK

Grief can lift like fog when you forget they’re gone. That seems like an odd thing to say but I remember occasionally when I would become absorbed in an activity and start enjoying myself. Suddenly I would remember the reality of the loss and feel guilty, as if I was somehow being disloyal.

Don’t feel guilty – allow yourself happiness in the middle of it all. Moments of respite will help build your emotional resilience to start accepting the unacceptable and tolerate the intolerable.

Give yourself permission to experience moments of joy without guilt. Grieving doesn't mean you must be sad all the time. Embrace the complexity of your emotions and acknowledge that healing is a gradual process.

9. Reflect on Your Future

I often say you can’t change what has happened but you can choose how you respond. You can choose where to put your focus: on the past, the present or the future. 

Use this time for reflection and goal-setting. Reflect on the lessons learned from your grief journey and consider how you want to move forward. Make time to start creating a new vision that is aligned to where you are now and where you want to be. If you struggle to do this, it may be that you first need to heal the past so you can be more in the present.

Try shifting your focus to the coming year! Use your imagination to dream. Make a list of things you'd like to do and perhaps start creating a bucket list. Take responsibility for creating moments of self-care, peace and joy. When planning, take into account your level of energy, planning capacity and season of life.

10. Give Journaling a Go

Give journaling a go

Journaling can be a really fantastic way to get perspective on what you’re going through and express the thoughts and feelings you may find difficult to share with others. This helps prevent you suppressing or burying your emotions which hinders your healing process.

Expressing your thoughts and emotions through writing can be therapeutic. Journaling provides a private space to explore your grief and monitor your progress over time.

Document your feelings, jot down the unsaid words to your loved one, and capture precious memories as they come. Watch your grief transform over time. Starting to do this consistently in the new year can be a powerful step in moving forward after loss and getting your life back, without spending years in pain and therapy.

To help you develop your emotional resilience, you can use a Self-Care Journal to build good habits. What you record improves. It usually takes at least 21 days to develop a habit.

Here’s a special gift from me to you! Download the FREE Handling Grief Self-Care Journal. This is usually available to purchase on Etsy but I am giving it as a gift to my family, friends and followers. I would love some feedback on any benefits you gain. Click here to download.

Surviving Christmas without a loved one is undoubtedly challenging, but with these ten tips, you can navigate the holiday season while honouring your grief. Remember, it's okay to seek support and prioritise self-care as you embark on this healing journey.

Reference: Untangle Grief

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Grief Specialist

Ghulam Fernandes

Grief Specialist

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