The holidays are never the same after you lose someone you love. These tips for getting through the holidays when you’re grieving will help you find hope, peace, and acceptance.
Whether it’s a breakup or divorce, death or disease, temporary situation or permanent way of life — living through a holiday season without your loved one is hard. I’m sorry for your loss. There’s nothing worse than than facing the holidays alone. Even if you’re surrounded by friends, family and coworkers, you’re still filled with the emptiness and sadness because nobody can take the place of the person you lost.
The bad news is that there aren’t any quick fixes or easy tips on how to get through the holidays when you’re grieving the loss of someone you love. But you knew that already, didn’t you? You’re not searching the internet for a miracle. You’re looking for comfort, companionship, and support to get you through the holidays. And you’re in the right place.
The hardest part of getting through the holidays is also the healthiest: allowing your grief to well up inside your heart and spill over into your body, mind, and soul. It’s important to feel and express your pain. It’s also scary, because you feel like you’re losing control of yourself and maybe even going crazy…but that’s part of the healing process.
This holiday season — Thanksgiving, Christmas, even New Year’s Eve — will never be the same. It’s ironic because the holidays were once the most exciting times of our lives! When one person is missing, the whole season loses its sparkle. A single moment changes everything, and the grieving process continues for years.
Getting Through the Holidays When You’re Grieving
Right now, you have a decision to make. This decision has the power to change everything. You can grow forward through grief or let it destroy your holiday season forever. You can hold the pain of your grief or decide to move into the new season God has planned.
Choose to grow forward with me! These five ways to get through the holidays when you’re grieving are divided into five different categories: spirit, heart, soul, body, and brain.
A parable in Frank Ostaseski’s book The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully shows us what to do when the world comes crashing down.
A burly middle-aged man had a job installing telephone poles. “They’re hard and heavy, standing up to forty feet high,” he said. “There’s a critical moment after you place a pole in the ground; it’s unstable and might topple over. If it hits you, it could break your back.”
On his first day of work he said to an old-timer, “If this pole starts to fall, I’m running like heck!” The old-timer replied, “Nope, you don’t want to do that. You don’t know which way to run and you’ll be crushed. If that pole starts to fall, you want to go right up to it. You want to get real close and put your hands on the pole. It’s the only safe place to be.”
Grief can feel like a falling telephone pole: uncontrollable, unstoppable, and destructive. If you run from it, it will crush you. But if you move in close and allow it to flow through you, you’ll disarm it. This seems like an odd or contradictory way to get through the holidays when you’re grieving, but it’s effective. It’s powerful because feeling and expressing your pain will release its power and weaken its intensity.
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If you’re grieving your husband’s or wife’s death, read 5 Ways to Heal Emotional Pain After Losing Someone You Love.
When I heard the news I thought I would die, too. My heart was shattered, my spirit crushed. All I wanted do was sleep and escape from everything. My life, work, friends and family kept marching right along…yet everything was different. Death is surreal and confusing.
My grandma died almost 20 years ago and I still suffer bouts of pain and longing. I have regrets, guilt, wishes, yearnings to relive just one day with her. Getting through the holidays has gotten easier as the years pass…but I will never forget the joy, love and peace of Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter with her.
It’s normal to experience “grief setbacks” when you’re mourning any type of loss or disappointment. You never get over the pain, but it does lighten. The grief setbacks come less often and are less overwhelming. The key to getting through the waves of grief — especially through the holiday season — is to expect them. Prepare for random, unanticipated, overwhelming bouts of sadness. Give yourself permission to take a break from the activity. Remember that grieving is part of your holidays now. Accepting this will help you get through the season.
The more you learn about the stages or cycle of grief, the more normal you’ll feel. The more you connect with others, the more support you’ll have. One of the healthiest ways to get through the holidays is to lean on people who know what it’s like to have loved and lost.
Learn how others coped with “holiday grief” or grieving through the Christmas season. Expect different-yet-similar reactions to loss. Allow yourself to grieve your way while honoring the grief of others. For example, I felt reassured to learn that grieving not only takes energy, it also makes you feel like you’re going crazy. Grief changes how you think.
“When you’re in the grieving process, your thinking patterns are different,” said Dr Norman Wright, author of Experiencing the Loss of a Family Member: Discover the Path to Hope and Healing. “There’s irrational thoughts, there’s a lot of fear. Part of the fear is that, ‘I will never, never get over this.’ And the second big fear is, ‘The loved one that I lost is going to be forgotten.’ And that usually is true. People tend to forget. After about three months, where’s the casserole parade? Where’s everybody coming to help? They’re not around. And we feel isolated. That’s the time when we are in deep, deep pain.”
While there are similarities, grief is different for everyone. Learn how you grieve. You’ll get through the holidays by grieving in ways that fit your personality, circumstances, and lifestyle. You may want to hold on to family traditions when you lose someone you love…or you may feel better if you go somewhere completely different. You may find it comforting to bring out the old holiday decorations…or you may find refreshment and life by creating something new this year.
Create reasons to get out of bed. Get your heart pumping, your blood flowing, your lungs inflating! Moving your body is one of the best tips for getting through the holiday season when you’re grieving loss. If you have no reason to “rise and shine” then you need to create activities and responsibilities. Pets — especially dogs — can be especially helpful because they require walks, care, and attention.
Whether you’re a 28 year old single mom or a 98 year old widow you can still find ways to be involved in the life around you. Animals, kids, coffee shops, library meetings, community activities, church groups, volunteer events, neighborhood associations, and exercise groups have room for you.
God created us to connect with other people. If your grief is particularly intense or long-lasting, join a support group or talk to a counselor. Find people who understand loss. Your burden will be lighter if you share it with others — especially over the holidays. Making in-person connections with kindred spirits will get you through the most grievous seasons of your life.
How are your thoughts affecting your mood, relationships, energy, and life?
Feed your brain good thoughts and your mood will lighten. When unproductive seeds of pain, suffering and grief pop into your head, replace them with the truth.
In Philippians 4:8 the apostle Paul said, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you.”
Feed your brain good news when you feel overwhelmed. If you’re a disciple of Jesus, remember the promises God made and the future you have in Him. Remind yourself that while this world is filled with suffering, it is also filled with beauty, love, joy and hope. You’ll get through the holidays if you stay focused on the everlasting truth of Jesus’ love. He knows your name and loves you through it all.
How do you feel? Your thoughts on getting through the holiday season when you’re grieving are welcome below. Writing can help you untangle your emotions and clarify your thoughts. Take time to stop and listen to the still small voice, and you will start healing and moving forward.
I read every comment, but don’t worry. I won’t give advice or tell you what to do. It’s your turn to talk.
If you feel abandoned by God, read When the Grief Never Ends and You Can’t Reach Out to God.
Laurie's "She Blossoms" Books
Growing Forward When You Can't Go Back offers hope, encouragement, and strength for women walking through loss. My Blossom Tips are fresh and practical - they stem from my own experiences with a schizophrenic mother, foster homes, a devastating family estrangement, and infertility.
How to Let Go of Someone You Love: Powerful Secrets (and Practical Tips!) for Healing Your Heart is filled with comforting and healthy breakup advice. The Blossom Tips will help you loosen unhealthy attachments to the past, seal your heart with peace, and move forward with joy.
When You Miss Him Like Crazy: 25 Lessons to Move You From Broken to Blossoming After a Breakup will help you refocus your life, re-create yourself, and start living fully again! Your spirit will rise and you'll blossom into who you were created to be.