Grief During the Holidays

When you’ve lost someone, the holidays can be a very challenging time. Below, we answer your questions about how to navigate them.


Q: I recently lost my aunt, who was like a mother to me. She had terminal cancer, and it wasn’t a surprise, but I’m still extremely sad and don’t know how to get through the holidays without her. Can you recommend some ways to cope?

A: Even when you are expecting someone’s death, when it comes to pass it can still be a bit of a shock and quite upsetting – and the holidays only exacerbate this. But there are some things you can do to cope better with your loss including:

  • Allow yourself to feel your sadness. If you want to cry, cry. Expressing your grief is part of the healing process. Don’t judge yourself.
  • Make time to be with others. While part of the grieving process is a solo act, it is important not to isolate yourself, particularly during the holidays. So, make an extra effort to meet with friends occasionally, if even for a short amount of time. Also, consider joining a local bereavement group. Often places of worship offer bereavement groups.
  • Be gentle with yourself.
  • Don’t do more than you can handle. During the holidays, this may mean you don’t attend every holiday party you’re invited to. And for the get-togethers you do manage to attend, you don’t need to stay long. Allow yourself a wide berth this year; this is not the time to “push” yourself.
  • When you exercise you release endorphins, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. If you’re up for it, go for a jog or take a yoga class. But if you don’t feel like wandering far from home, simply take a nice walk around your house or apartment building – even 15 minutes will do you good. (And try to do this at least three times a week.)
  • If you’re going to drink alcohol, be sure to drink in moderation. Imbibing during the holidays is very popular, but alcohol is a depressant, so watch your intake.
  • Even if you don’t usually journal, putting pen to paper is a cathartic way to express your range of emotions.
  • Take an Epsom salt bath, which is known for reducing stress physically and mentally.


Q: I lost a loved one six months ago. I’m still incredibly sad, but part of me wants to start going out again, especially now that it’s the holidays. But I also feel guilty. Is it wrong for me to celebrate, even a little, so soon after my friend’s death?

A: Guilt is actually a very common feeling after a loved one passes away, but you shouldn’t feel guilty at all for wanting to celebrate the holidays. It is a way to bring back some normalcy to your life, and very life-affirming, which is ultimately the key to getting through your grief long-term – a very healthy goal to have.


Q: Are grieving patterns affected by age?

A: Yes. A person’s age and level of emotional development will affect the way they grieve.

  • Children younger than age 2 may refuse to talk and may be generally irritable.
  • Children between the ages of 2 and 5 may develop eating, sleeping, or toileting and bed-wetting problems.
  • Children younger than age 7 usually perceive death as separation. They may feel abandoned and scared, and they may fear being alone or leaving people they love.
  • Children between the ages of 7 and 12 often perceive death as a threat to their personal safety. They tend to fear that they will die also and may try to protect themselves from death. Children in this age group need to be reassured that they are not responsible for the death they are grieving.
  • Teens perceive death much like adults do. However, they may express their feelings in dramatic or unexpected ways.


This information is for educational purposes. Please consult your physician for any medical issues. For more information about VNA services, call 321-752-7550 or visit