Handling Holiday Grief

The holidays bring joyous festivities, hustle and bustle, and time with family, but for many, grief is also present. Some grieve the loss of loved ones. Others experience the nostalgia of childhood holiday memories or gatherings that no longer happen. Still others grieve ongoing relationship challenges or difficult memories of unpleasant holidays past.

This year, I particularly miss the Neely Christmas party, a time when all my father’s family (9 children and their families) gathered for an evening of food, fun, gifts, music, and general chaos. It was a time we looked forward to each year and cherished. Now, with my father’s generation gone, the tradition has ended and I grieve those family times.

No matter what type of grief you might be experiencing this year, here are some things to remember:

Grief Doesn’t Respect Holidays

Pretending you aren’t experiencing heartache doesn’t change how you feel. You don’t get stiff-upper-lip credits for acting happy when you feel sad. Grief is a normal part of life and it is acceptable to grieve no matter what the time of year. Acknowledge grief, but don’t let it overwhelm you.

Resist Isolating Yourself

When you are grieving, there is a tendency to withdraw, declining invitations and interaction with family and friends. But isolating yourself during the holidays, or any time, only renders grief more intense. Instead, resist the urge to separate yourself because you don’t feel merry. You don’t have to be the life of the event, but allow yourself the opportunity to be with others.

Be Open to a Change in Traditions

Sometimes following the same traditions make grief more acute. If it helps you to decorate less or not at all, not host a holiday event, or change some other traditional element, allow yourself the option. If your grief is fresh, starting a new tradition may help you maintain forward motion.

Look Beyond Yourself

The holidays provide plenty of opportunities for involvement. Consider volunteering your time at a food bank, community center, church, or with mobile meals. If you sing or play an instrument, care facilities are a good place to share your talent. Contact the director of activities to schedule. When you give of your time and talents, you bless others, but also receive a blessing.

Find Joy

When grief is present, joy is sometimes elusive. But with a little effort, you can find pleasure and fulfillment. Look for a small craft project that can be easily completed and give you a sense of accomplishment. Go for a walk and experience nature. Invite a friend to lunch. Buy a new novel or attend a concert. Go for an evening drive and view light displays. You know best what brings you joy.

Focus on the Future

Our lives are made up of many seasons and we can move in and out of seasons of grief. Valleys are often followed by mountaintop vistas. The grief that is heavy now will lighten in days ahead. God’s mercies are new each morning, providing the hope and peace we need to move forward.

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT


Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving beyond difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including: Inspiration.org, Arisedaily.com, CBN.com, Healthgrades.com, Care.com, Focus on the Family, NextAvenue.org, CountryLiving.com, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House) and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).

To receive Candy’s blog, Forward Motion, via email, go to https://candyarrington.com/blog/ and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up.



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