Coping with the Holidays While Grieving

Experience Camps Clinical Director, Jenny Schreiber, and Jeff's Place Program Director, Melissa Kennedy Panto, share some important coping strategies for grieving through the holiday season.

The holiday season is often marked by an extended period of time of anticipation, frenzy, excitement, and stress.  Many non-grievers experience “holiday blues” and a myriad of emotions.  Given that situation, it is natural that one who is bereaved may experience significant distress during this season of “holiday cheer.”

Below are some suggested guidelines to consider as you, or as you help others, prepare for the holiday season while grieving:

  1. Plan ahead and don’t let any holiday “take you by surprise”.  While our emotions routinely surprise us and may even overwhelm us, it may be empowering to strategize how you will manage the day(s) ahead.
  2. Don’t do it alone!  Talk with your family or friends about how to make the day manageable and even meaningful.  If children are involved, it is especially important to include them in the conversations so that their thoughts and feelings are respected and validated.
  3. Take time to think about your unique rituals related to specific holidays, and whether you want to keep them the same, modify them, get rid of them and/or create new ones.  This is a fluid process, meaning you may do all of the above, and it will take many discussions!
  4. Take care of yourself!  This is extremely difficult for most of us, but it is especially challenging while one is grieving.  Create as conducive an environment as is possible so that you are eating, sleeping, and exercising in a healthy manner.
  5. Give yourself permission to “lose it” from time to time!  The idea of “good enough” can be very helpful.  Try to focus on the steps rather than simply the outcome.
  6. BREATHE DEEPLY AND SLOWLY… allowing yourself to get through moment to moment if that’s what you need.