Holiday Grief Tips
Holiday Grief Tips for Supporting Yourself:
Holiday Grief Tips – When you are grieving, the holidays can be an emotionally overwhelming time. How do you get through? How do you find ways to enjoy the holiday season again? There is really no single answer on what one should or shouldn’t do. The Hospice Foundation of America stresses one guiding principle and we agree: do what is comfortable for you.
Some people find it helpful to be with family and friends, in a familiar setting. Others might wish to avoid those familiar sights and sounds. Here are a few grief tips as you discern what works best for you:
1. Take care of yourself. Caring for yourself will help you care for others.
2. Recognize that the holidays will not be the same.
3. Plan ahead. Think about situations that might be emotionally tough for you.
4. Be careful not to isolate yourself. It’s alright to take time for yourself, but try not to cut yourself off from support.
5. If it’s comfortable, spend some time thinking about the person who has died and think about ways you might honor your person during the holidays.
6. Be patient with yourself. You may not always understand your emotions – that’s OK.
7. Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out and get the help you need. You can reach out to your AMF chapter or reach out to us at National. We are always here to help support you!
Holiday Grief Tips from Past AMFers
More holiday grief tips from our young adults.
• You are not alone, people are there for you. Let others know how you feel and spend time with those you love. – Jeffrey and Annie, Georgetown University
• I thought it was helpful to tell stories from past holidays to make it seem like our loved one was still there. –Jackie and Erinn, University of Wisconsin – Green Bay
• Just let the person know that you understand holidays are a hard time and you are there for them if they need someone to talk to.
• If you know a family member or friend may be having a tough time during the holidays after the loss of someone significant to them, I would call or stop by just to check in and see how they are doing and provide them a space to talk. –Kristen, Oklahoma State University
• Something I struggled with during the holidays was figuring out whether to try to re-create the traditions my Mom has always been a huge part of, or to try to do something completely new. Both options seemed painful, so my family ended up doing something small that my Mom would have done (making mashed sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving, for example) to honor her memory, coupled with something new that we could manage without her. –Julia, Columbia University
• Grief tip – You don’t have to pretend to be happy for everyone else’s sake.
• When I go home for the holidays, something we all like to do is watch home movies. It reminds us of all the happy moments we have to hold on to and be grateful for. –Danielle Eble, Boston University
• There is no right or wrong way for you to go through this. Everyone’s grief is unique, and although I have struggled with my grief, my grief is not the same as yours.
• I think the hardest part for me was people expecting me to get over this in a set amount of time. So, I would tell people that they can take as much time as they need to grieve and that it’s a lifelong process that doesn’t go away, but you can think of strategies to deal with grief. –Page, University of Georgia
• Honestly, I like to keep busy with my family during the holidays. Whether it’s helping around the house with cooking or shoveling the driveway. It’s harder for me to dwell on the emotion behind the loss of my loved ones, but much easier to embrace those that are still around.
• I also like to keep in mind how I felt during the loss of my loved ones fresh in my mind during the holidays. I feel as though it’s easier to lend support to other individuals when you have access to those bittersweet emotions/memories. It helps me relate better to those who are currently going through the grief process. –Andrew, The Ohio State University
• A good way would be to show love and concern for people going through it and let them know that it’s ok to be vulnerable to grief and other emotions. –Nooruddin, Georgia State University
• Include the deceased in your conversations and celebrations. Hang a stocking for your loved one in which people can put notes with their thoughts or feelings. Look at photographs. Once others realize that you are comfortable talking about your loved one, they can relate stories that will add to your pleasant memories.
• Remember, anticipation of any holiday is so much worse than the actual holiday. Donate a gift or money in your loved one’s name. –Lauren, Walden University
• Set aside time to do something just for yourself. This helps me step back from the craziness of life to process the crazy emotions that can come up during the holiday season.
• Embrace the memories that come up during the holiday season. They have the ability to make you smile during what can often be a difficult time.
• Channel your energy into something positive such as donating your time or skills to family members or friends in need.
• Surround yourself with people you care about. –Student Leader, Boston University
• Stay busy and find new traditions to start with your family. My family loves watching home videos on holidays to keep our loved ones in our minds. I also made a list of fun holiday events to take part in like carve pumpkins on Halloween, make a special pie for Thanksgiving, donate some old clothes to a shelter for Christmas. It helps to feel accomplished and do something nice.
• Make sure you have some friends and loved ones you can turn to when you do feel sad.
• I use a term called ‘forced happiness,’ where I decorate my dorm room with holiday decorations, so I am always happy when I walk in my room. I have Christmas lights and random window stickers that remind me of the holidays.
• Exercising always helps me. If you are home for break and feeling down, go to the gym for a run or even bring an iPad to watch Netflix on the elliptical. It is nice to sweat the anger or sadness out. –Lauren, Lewis University
• Keeping your traditions alive really helps. I still do things that my mom and I would do, and my boyfriend does them with me now. Sharing these traditions and continuing them makes it a bit easier. –Bryna, Southern Methodist University
• Try to remember the good times you had with your loved ones and try and embrace the new phase of your life without them.
• Grief tip – Give yourself plenty of space and alone time.
• Remind yourself that it is okay to be sad during the holidays, which is normally a time to be happy.
• Give yourself space and plenty of alone time if you get overwhelmed by family.
• Take time to remind yourself of everything you are still grateful for despite your loved one’s death. –Kathryn, North Carolina State University
• Just check in. That simple– Dartmouth has a month and a half long break coming up and we are trying to find out how we can all stay in touch from across the country during the Holiday season. –Maggie, Dartmouth College
• Holidays are all about tradition, try and keep some of the old to signify that the loved one is still in your heart, as well as make new traditions to signify that you are growing. –Kirsten, Purdue University
• Surrounding yourself with family and friends and make new memories while reflecting on the old ones. –Jordan, College of Charleston
• I always say that it’s okay to not be a fan of the holiday season, and it’s okay to miss your loved ones who have passed. In the case of loved ones suffering from a terminal illness, I say while it is okay to feel sadness because it could be the last holiday you spend with your loved one, you should also recognize that it could, in fact be your last holiday with them, and (depending on the circumstances, obviously) that you should try to consider how wonderful it is that you have that. I also say do what’s good for you, and if that means your friend has to be a little disappointed that you didn’t go to that Christmas party with them because you can’t be around people, that’s okay.
• I also feel it is really beneficial to honor your loved one during the holiday season through some volunteer work over the Holiday Break, or to consider making a charitable donation in their honor, whichever you are more able to do. –Tina, Meredith College
• Do things you’d do with a loved one during the holidays like see a movie you think they would like or make a dish that they really enjoyed. –Tess, Georgia State University
• Do not worry about past traditions, to do what feels right for you in the moment and more importantly perhaps to find a way to honor your loved one. –Jennifer, Western Oregon University
• Do what feels comfortable. If you need to remember, remember. If you need to forget, forget. If you need to do old traditions, do them, and if you need to have new traditions, make them. Even if you don’t want to talk about the loss with your other loved ones, I suggest at least acknowledging that you are thinking about the person who died. I think that would help get rid of some awkwardness that might come up. –Meghan, Northwestern University
• From a male perspective I know it’s a little harder to speak up about emotions or feelings in front of an unknown group because many guys are simply afraid of what others will think. However, since I do not care what others think of me.
• What I do around the holidays is to write a letter to that loved one (almost as if they were still alive). I write a letter to my dad every year around Christmas and let him know the progress I’ve made since last year. I leave the letter at the cemetery along with his favorite foods or snacks (coffee, with some tamales and his favorite pastries) it helps me in so many ways, I feel like I still have communication with him and makes me feel motivated to continue making him proud.
• Grief tip – During Thanksgiving and Christmas I watch old home videos that always hit home in my heart.
• Keeping a journal as I am sure many already do. The things I write in my journal are any memories or stories that I remember (I figured I would forget many if I didn’t write them down especially if I want to tell my kids of these stories one day) I try to keep it positive so that anytime I want to remember him and get a good laugh I simply open it up. –Enrique, Lewis University