Handling the Holiday When Grief is a Visitor

by Death, Holidays, Respect the Grief Journey0 comments

By Father Charles Hudson.  Source:  Reclaiming Christmas, by Ginger Jurries.

When faced with the loss of a loved one, we are forced to make a decision to help ourselves move through the pain.  The holidays increase the pain.  They validate the absence and the death of our child, sibling or mate and challenge us to make some basic decisions on just how we will get through the coming weeks.

I would like to make a few suggestions for you to ponder and decide upon as the holidays descend upon us.

  • Decide just how much holiday activities you can or want to handle.  You can eliminate or modify all or some of your past holiday traditions (i.e. holiday cards, decorations, etc.). Shopping need not be done if you lack the energy.  If you feel the need to give a gift, then try cash or a gift certificate.
  • Eliminate unnecessary stress as you need some special time for yourself.  Avoid people who will add stress.  Some have referred to these kind of people as “toxic” people.  Ask yourself the question, “Who are the people I feel most safe with?”
  • Decide not to hide your grief.  If the situation arises, then speak openly of your grief. Mention the name of your loved one.  Most people around you will be avoiding the mention of your loved one, so put his/her name in your conversation.
  • Many who are bereaved decide to do something very different on the first Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah so the absence of the loved one won’t be so obvious (i.e. try going to a completely different place).
  • Decide to plan ahead for family gatherings.  Don’t let others plan for you.  Do what is right for you!  Focus on what you need and want to do.  You do not have to go where everyone else thinks you should go.
  • Decide to embrace your memories—not avoid or deny them.  Do not hold back the tears.  Decide who you can reach out to if the feelings of anxiety and loneliness become too overwhelming.  Don’t be fearful of acknowledging that you need someone to be there for you.
  • Express your faith.  Attend religious services if you feel they will help you to cope better with your feelings.
  • One of the last lines in the play I Never Sang for My Father is spoken by the son as he drives away from the funeral of his father—“Death ends a life, but never a relationship.”  Your relationship with your child, sibling or mate is still very much alive.  For now it may cause you some pain, but in the end, it will be the source of your strength to survive.
  • Remember the words of the wise man who was once asked by his king to give him some words of wisdom that would cover all situations in life—both good and bad.  The wise man responded, “This too will pass.”  These next few weeks will also pass.
  • Remember the anticipation of the holiday is often harder than the actual day.



Karen Mulder

Karen Mulder

Karen Mulder is the founder of the Wisdom of the Wounded ministry. She lives in Holland, Michigan with her husband Larry.