Coping with the Holidays When Grief Is New

It’s hard to believe that the holidays are upon us – again. The stores are overflowing with holiday goods as families gear up for their celebrations.

However, if someone you love has recently died, thinking about the holidays may bring you anguish. What were once happy times might now fill you with tremendous sadness and heartache. You may even wish that this year, you could skip the holidays all together.

Sue Morris provides bereavement support to the loved ones of Dana-Farber patients.

If these holidays will be your first without your loved one, it is important to do something to acknowledge this time of year. This may mean doing the same thing you’ve always done, or trying a new activity. The key is doing something even if you don’t feel like it. Doing nothing won’t take away your pain, and in fact, can make things harder.

You might find it helpful to talk with family and friends ahead of time about your plans. Would you like to do something different this year? Are there rituals you’d like to keep the same? Lower your expectations about what is possible, and be patient with yourself.

Grief follows a wave-like pattern, and often people feel as though their grief is intensifying around the holidays. It is normal to feel this, as special dates such as holidays and anniversaries tend to highlight the absence of your loved one, and show how your life has changed.

While it is very important to give yourself permission to cry, it is equally important to give yourself permission to enjoy these occasions.

Sue Morris, PsyD, is director of Bereavement Services at Dana-Farber /Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.