How to Walk the Holiday Grief Path

Sympathy card at Christmas showing grief path at the holidays

When speaking to people who have lost loved ones, and who are still grieving and in bereavement, about how they will survive the holidays, especially holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Jewish holidays, the image of a grief pathway often comes to mind.


Questions Often Asked about Grief at the Holidays


They wonder how they’ll get through the holidays. How they will navigate all they have to do. How they will react when family arrive. How everyone will react to memories. How to celebrate when the person, who was so much a part of holidays, is gone.

Holidays are the toughest terrain you’ll travel after a loss, regardless of how many years have passed. Realize everyone who is part of your holidays may also be grieving the same loss, but each will experience grief differently.


Be present for the loss in whatever form it takes during the holidays. The holidays are part of the grief journey, a journey that will have moments of sadness, laughter, and joy. Try not to be a victim of the past. Experience the grief and let others do the same.


Have a Plan to Help You and Others Heal


Prepare for the holidays by having a plan. Decide what is important to you first, and then what you think might be important to those with whom you’ll spend the holidays. Whatever you plan, let everyone know ahead of time the details.


Be prepared with an alternate plan. If you’re having trouble coping with the idea of having family and friends over, given the grief you are experiencing, have a second plan ready, one that will better help you heal.


Make Changes in Traditions If Needed


Your life has changed. The way you celebrate holidays will change. Holiday traditions are wonderful, and they can be comforting and reassuring, but don’t feel guilty about making changes such as scaling back activities, keeping family gatherings and decorations to a minimum, or even canceling celebrations


Be gentle and patient with yourself and others as you prepare for the holidays. Prepare to celebrate the holidays in a way good for your heart and soul. Give yourself permission to express your feelings. But also look for moments of joy and appreciate them when they arise. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.


An Opportunity to Honor a Deceased Loved One


Keep in mind there are many ways you can honor and remember your lost loved one during the holidays. Let your heart and soul speak through your imagination, and do what feels most comfortable for you as you continue to grieve.


Remember, prayerfully plan a celebration that will be good for your grieving heart and soul.

Keep the Lord beside you.


Additional reading:

Priceless: The Price of Presence

Tears of Sorrow, Tears of Joy

You're Not Alone as You Walk the Valley


Listen to God’s Words


A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, (Ecclesiastes 3:4)


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)


Also read: Numbers 64:24-26, Isaiah 41:10, Philippians 4:4


In the Words of Others


"God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” J.M. Barrie


“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” Khalil Gibran


“The holiest of holidays are those kept by ourselves in silence and apart: the secret anniversaries of the heart.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Think About It

  • How can you create a new tradition or maintain an old one in memory of your loved one?

  • Are there favorite stories about your loved one that will brighten the holidays?

  • How can you use photo albums, CD’s, and other memorabilia to share fond memories of your loved one?

  • Are there ways you and your family can celebrate the life of your loved one beyond the holidays, on an ongoing basis?

  • How would your loved one want you to celebrate without him or her at your side?



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