As the carol says, we think of the holiday season as “the most wonderful time of the year.” For someone who has experienced a death, that is anything but true.

The holidays can be a time when children and adults alike miss the people who have died the most, and a season of joy can quickly turn to sadness. The traditions that we hold dear often become painful, and warm memories of holidays past can trigger grief.

How can you deal with grief at the holidays?

With the holiday season upon us, we wanted to pass some helpful tips along.

  1. Be gentle with yourself and don’t overschedule. You may want to keep yourself busy and distracted with parties and functions, but be sure to also take care of yourself.
  2. Be flexible. Be willing to “play things by ear.” Expect your feelings to change from day to day and take each moment as it comes. Again, remember that you can change your mind at any time. People will understand.
  3. Share your feelings with your children. Just as you are finding the holidays to be a difficult time, so are your family members. It helps them to know that you are struggling but that it’s okay, and you will get through this together. Children take many cues from the adults around them, so sharing your feelings of grief will let them know that it's okay for them to share, too.
  4. Ask for and accept help. Don’t assume that people know what you need. Ask for help if you want it. Most friends and family are looking for the opportunity to help, so allow them to do what they can.
  5. Make a book of pictures and memorabilia about the person who died. You can give it as a gift or simply share with one another. This is a great activity for children as well. Let them know you would rather keep the memory of the person alive than pretend nothing has changed.

Take good care of yourself and your family and friends. Remember, there is no timeline for grief and its okay not to be okay. Reaching out for help is okay. Your support network is there for you, and so are at FRIENDS WAY. Visit our website for more resources on how to help people who have experienced a death.

We wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season.

Ryan Loiselle, LICSW

Ryan Loiselle, LICSW, is a clinical social worker and the program director for FRIENDS WAY, a Lifespan partner. FRIENDS WAY is the only bereavement center in the state, serving children ages three to 18 and families from throughout the region.