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18 Ways to Cope With Holiday Grief

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Coping with the loss of a loved one is difficult, and it can be magnified tenfold during the holidays.

As the holiday season approaches, you might find yourself reflecting on the traditions you once shared with your loved one and how you’ll navigate through this time.

While there’s no right way to move forward, it’s important to acknowledge these traditions and the emotions you’re feeling. Start by setting realistic expectations for yourself and consider how your traditions have changed throughout the years, not just in the present moment.

As you prepare for these changes, consider the following activities to help cope with your grief over the holidays.

Give Back

Generosity releases chemicals in our brains that help lift our spirits. If you’re in the giving mood, try one of the following activities:

1. Donate to your loved one’s favorite charity.

2. Donate a gift in honor of your loved one. This can be through a local Giving Tree or any other well-known organization, such as Toys for Tots or Operation Christmas Spirit.

3. Volunteer at an organization that is important to you.

4. Donate a meal to a struggling family.

>>>Related Resource: 35+ Ways to Keep a Loved One’s Memory Alive This Holiday Season

Cope Creatively

Consider creative activities for coping with grief. This will help you and your family express your grief and bring to life memories with your loved one. Below are some family crafts for coping with a loss:

5. Create a remembering ornament.

6. Build a tribute scrapbook or cookbook.

7. Make a memory box.

8. Write a poem and frame it.

Make Mealtime About Remembrance

Mealtimes during the holidays are often when families get together. This may be emotional when your loved one is not at their usual seat or making their favorite dish. Consider making meals a time for remembrance. Below are a few ideas:

9. Prepare your loved one’s favorite meal.

10. Set a memorial space at the table or light a candle in honor of your loved one.

11. Decorate the table with your loved one’s favorite flowers.

12. Play your loved one’s favorite holiday music at dinner.

Express Gratitude

When you’re grieving, it can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. During the holidays, it’s especially important to note what you’re most grateful for, such as your family, friends and health. The following activities can help you be more deliberate as you reflect on the positive aspects in your life:

13. Write in a gratitude journal.

14. Send special notes or cards to your loved ones, thanking them for their support or letting them know you appreciate them.

15. Start each morning by noting one thing you’re grateful for.

>>>Related Resource: 4 Meaningful Conversation Topics to Add to Your Holiday Traditions

Foster Traditions

Whether you’re planning to carry on with an old tradition, begin a new one or create a mix of both old and new, traditions are a special way to bring your family and friends together while honoring your loved one’s life. Consider these unique ideas:

16. Invite your family members over to replicate your loved one’s famous dessert. See who can get theirs closest to the secret recipe.

17. Orchestrate a Secret Santa with your family members using fun themes. For example, if your loved one was a fan of games, use “board games” as your theme.

18. Have your family members over for dinner. Because the holidays can be a busy time, choose a random day to ensure everyone can be there. Use this time to share special memories of your loved one and enjoy each other’s company.

Let Us Support You Throughout Your Grief Journey 

In the days, weeks and months following a loss, it’s important to remember the grieving process has no set timeline. The stages of grief are often unpredictable, and some days may feel better or worse than others.

To help guide you through your grief journey and provide you with information you need to heal, subscribe to our weekly grief support newsletter, A Journey Towards Healing.

Subscribe to our grief support newsletter

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2016, and has been updated for 2021 for comprehensiveness.

Robert Solich
Robert Solich
Thirty years of experience helping people on the hardest day of their lives, and one of Busch's longest-standing staff members. Bob provides valuable guidance to families with his expertise and compassion. He serves on two non-profit boards in the greater Cleveland area, promoting healthcare and the arts. Proudly serving Busch families since 1983.

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