Grief and the Holidays…

Grief and the Holidays

We usually think of the holidays as a time to gather with family and friends in celebration.  However, when we are grieving, we often times do not feel like celebrating.  When we experience a significant loss, our lives have been changed forever.  Holidays and other special occasions serve as a reminder of just how much our lives have changed.  Holidays then can be a painful time.  Holidays can also be a time to confront our pain as we reexamine our relationships and traditions.  Holidays can be an invitation to find healing on the journey of grief.  Below are some suggestions and thoughts on how to cope with grief during the holidays and other special occasions.


  •  Allow yourself to be surprised by joy.
  •   Allow yourself to feel the sadness that is there.
  •   Allow yourself and those with you to cry.
  •  Try not to keep yourself too busy and preventing yourself from feeling and experiencing the breadth of emotions that are an important part of who you are.  What we try to avoid feeling will only resurface in ways that are often not healthy, and at times overwhelming and more inconvenient than if we had allowed ourselves to experience them when they first came to surface.
  •  Place an empty chair at the table as a visual reminder of your loved one.  The relationship has changed, but they are still with us in our hearts.
  •   Light a candle in memory of your loved one and place it in a prominent place as a reminder that they are still with us.
  •  Have everyone gathered share a memory or something they are thankful for as they remember their loved one.
  •  Write a letter to your loved one.  Tell them what you miss.  Tell them how they used to make the holidays special.
  •  Make a donation to a meaningful charity or organization in memory of your loved one.
  •  Take time to look through picture albums with others and tell the stories behind the pictures.
  •  Make a list of your holiday traditions that have been meaningful in the past.  Pick one or two to continue this year.  It is not necessary to do them all.
  •  Most importantly, take care of yourself.  Be sure to eat and drink plenty of water, and get rest.  Let others be responsible for some of the planning – it does not have to be you.  Give yourself permission to participate in as much or as little of the celebrations as you feel you are able to do, but be careful not to isolate yourself – thus cutting yourself off from seeing and experiencing signs and gifts of life.  Life has changed, but you will be OK.

Sweet Sorrow


Sweet sorrow, sweet sorrow,

Our Savior brings life out of death

Right now, not before

Today, not tomorrow

In this moment, not the next

Sweet sorrow, sweet sorrow,

Our Savior brings life out of death

What the world says is bad

What the world says is dead and gone

What the world says is impossible

God says, “Take another look!”

Sweet sorrow, sweet sorrow,

Our Savior brings life out of death

A flower blooms in the desert

Water flows from a rock

The blind can see

The lame can walk

Sweet sorrow, sweet sorrow,

Our Savior brings life out of death

A wonderful resource for coping with grief and the holidays is the book The Empty Chair: Handling Grief on Holidays and Special Occasions, by Susan J. Zonnebelt-Smeenge and Robert C. De Vries (Baker Books, 2001)

As always, I am holding you in the light of God’s healing love…