Managing Grief During the Holidays

By The National Funeral Directors Association

Happy Thanksgiving Day! Autumn feast. Family sitting at the table and celebrating holiday. Traditional dinner. Grandmother and granddaughters.

The holidays are often difficult for anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one, particularly during the first year of adjusting to life without them. The holiday season may result in a renewed sense of grief, especially as well-intentioned individuals are encouraging those who are grieving to participate in traditional festivities. While there can be joy in being together with family and friends, the holidays can also bring feelings of sadness, loss, and emptiness.

For those who find themselves struggling with grief during the holidays and other celebrations, consider these ideas from Remembering a Life, an online resource from the experts at the National Funeral Directors Association.

Talk About Grief

Grief is not a linear journey. Ignoring pain and emotions will not make it go away. Do not be afraid to talk about grief with others. Confiding in close family and friends can help a grieving person feel heard and understood.

Establish Boundaries

Friends and family may encourage a grieving person to participate in the holiday just as they normally would. While these intentions are typically good, it is important for the bereaved to set boundaries and focus on what they want. While grieving, one should openly and honestly discuss wishes with friends and family to clarify what they are comfortable with and have the emotional stamina to do.

Acknowledge the Loss

Families can find ways to honor their loved one’s physical absence during holiday celebrations by incorporating their spirit into celebrations and holiday traditions. Examples of this could be decorating ornaments in ways that are symbolic of a loved one, cooking their favorite meal, or making a memorial donation to a favorite charity.

Reflect On and Embrace Fond Memories

Memories of a loved one, both from the holidays and other special times, are an important legacy. Rather than ignoring these memories, talk about them with family and friends. It is okay to laugh, and it is okay to cry. A great way to facilitate this is by looking at photos and sharing stories about your loved one. Share your favorite memories and the things you miss the most. It can make for a meaningful activity during holiday gatherings.

It is important to remember that even though an individual may be grieving, they can still celebrate and enjoy the holidays. Find support and resources for grieving the loss of a loved one at

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