How to Get Through (and Even Enjoy) Your First Holiday After the Loss of a Loved One

Your First Holiday After the Loss of a Loved One

Holiday memories are filled with the people you love. Although the shopping and gifts can be distracting, the season is really all about family. That’s what makes the holidays especially difficult for those who have recently lost a loved one.

If every Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah of the last few decades has been spent with someone you love who passed this last year, the lack of their presence will likely feel palpable and hard to look beyond. There’s no easy solution to making the grief go away, but there are some ways you can make it more manageable and hopefully succeed at having a joyful Christmas celebration in spite of your loss.

Don’t Avoid Family and Routine

It can be tempting to try to avoid all the old routines that remind you of your loved one, but if cutting a familiar tradition out of your holiday season means not being with your family, it’s not worth it. Even if one of them is missing, being around the people you love for the holidays is a meaningful experience you shouldn’t miss out on this year.

If a particular tradition reminds you too much of your loss, change it or switch to something new. But don’t feel like you have to avoid everything that may make you think of your loved one. If you re-arrange your holiday for your grief, you risk losing some of what you love about it.

Don’t Feel Bad About Saying “No”

If you don’t feel up to making the turkey or putting the lights up this year, that’s fine. You can take a break from the traditions that are usually your responsibility. It’s probably a good idea to let your family know in advance, so someone else can step in to take care of it, but don’t let any guilt slip in for letting some of your usual holiday responsibilities go to someone else.

Don’t Leave Your Loved One Out

You can’t include them in person, but you can include your loved one’s memory in the proceedings. Their name can be invoked in the prayer before the Christmas Eve meal, or you can ask everyone to take a moment to share a memory as you’re sitting around the tree in the morning. Your loved one made their mark on the Christmas proceedings and it’s ok to invoke that, even as their loss is still painful to process.

Research Local Support Groups

At least to have as a plan B, see if there are any grief support groups in the area in the days around Christmas. You may find it helps to share your feelings with people going through something similar and you might find you could use a break from the celebration.

Don’t Be Afraid To Step Away

If you feel grief coming upon you, you can separate yourself from your friends and family to work through it. Slip off to a room no one’s in or go for a solitary drive, so you can feel your feelings as fully as you need to without having to worry about everyone else’s celebration.

Focus on What You Have

You’ve lost something big and meaningful, but the holidays are a good time to focus on all the good things you still have. If you’re surrounded by family you only see so often, better food than is typical in your day-to-day life, and a lot of love; you might find the grief isn’t so hard to bear after all.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for


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