The Challenges of the Holiday Season

Facing the holiday season can be a very difficult and challenging task for those grieving the death of a loved one. The holiday season is a special time when families come together, a time rich in family traditions. As the holidays season approaches we are reminded of our loved ones and of their absence in our lives. We are surrounded by the sights and sounds of the holidays and we are reminded that our lives have changed forever. We are reminded of the way things were, and this can be very painful.

With the holidays comes pressure, we feel pressure to participate in the parties and family events, we feel obligated to participate in the season’s festivities with family and friends and are expected to be cheerful and gracious. It is important to realize that this festive pressure oftentimes increases our feelings of loss and sadness.

Most bereaved people have questions about what they are experiencing and about how they should handle the holiday season. Using the theme “memories and traditions” the team at the Trauma Management Group have put together some practical tips that we hope will help you and others throughout this holiday season.

Times Shared

Whether we like it or not, the holidays are a time for sharing, sharing with family, friends, co-workers even strangers. We are constantly receiving invitations for parties and social gatherings. These holiday festivities may intensify our feelings of loss. Plan to attend only the functions that you are comfortable in attending, and decline those you feel unable, or simply don’t want to attend. Others may pressure you, believing that it would be “good for you”, that you must “get on with your life”. Trust your own instincts and give yourself permission to do what you feel is right for you, this holiday season.


In anticipating the holiday season you may feel like you just want to forget. People, places, events, all bombard you with memories, remembering is inevitable during the holidays. You may find comfort in sharing memories of your loved one with family and friends, they will be happy to listen and will no doubt have their own fond memories. Take the time to look through photo albums, remember past holiday seasons when your loved one was with you. We all need to remember and cherish our holiday memories.


Accepting the loss of a friend or loved one is most difficult; it may even seem impossible at times. If you accept that the holiday season may be difficult for you, you will be better able to plan and prepare yourself for this challenging season. Do what you feel is right for you – accept that you are wise and listen to your internal wisdom, it is your best guide.

Difficult Decisions

You may decide to avoid certain festivities and will struggle with these decisions. It may be difficult to let your friends and family know that you do not wish to participate in certain activities this season. Speak openly and honestly about your feelings to your loved ones. Remember that people don’t always know what your needs are and telling them will help them to help you.

Inspirational Moments

Often, when we have lost a friend or loved one, we need to create special moments, quiet times that are filled with special meaning. Do not hesitate to let yourself create these moments, to share them, or to enjoy them alone. They are your special celebration of the person who has died and the holiday season is a wonderful time to reflect on cherished memories and traditions.


The holiday season may bring tears, tears are healthy. Each one releases the pain deep within you, so let the tears come.

Important Family Gatherings

The Holidays bring with them family gatherings. You may feel incapable of attending these reunions, as they will be constant reminders of your loss. Discuss your feelings with your family; ask for their support. Be very open and forthright about your feelings and your needs. Above all, remember that your feelings are normal, accept that these times are difficult and that it is okay to ask for help from loved ones and friends.


Some bereaved people become very involved in many of the activities of the season as a way of maintaining their traditions and possibly avoiding feeling the void in their lives. Others, however, may prefer to avoid the season by not continuing with previous holiday rituals or by going away. Listen to yourself, do what feels right for you and feel comfortable saying “no”, don’t feel obligated to do anything that doesn’t feel right for you.

New Traditions

Why not create some new traditions? Many bereaved families choose the holiday season to create a fund for their loved one who has died. Others buy a holiday gift in honor of the deceased and donate it to a charitable organization. Slightly altering old traditions is also sometimes very appropriate, have your holiday dinner at a different place, modify your choice of festive dishes, celebrate the holidays in a new way. Traditions often feel immovable; they are not. Traditions can be changed and new traditions can be created at anytime. If there is something that you thought you would like to do or see over the holidays, make this the year to do it.

Support your loved ones

Regardless of your loss, you may have other people dependent upon you over the holiday season. Although it is important to keep in mind other people’s wishes; let your loved ones know what you need to get through the holiday season. Try to include your loved ones in your grieving process and avoid pushing them away. Remember that they are also grieving.