Navigating Loss During the Holidays

Elderly couple smiling in a garden.

How to cope with grief and create new traditions.

For many, the holiday season is a stark reminder that their loved one is no longer with them to share in the celebrating. A time that is supposed to be full of joy and festivity can instead feel lonely and painful, regardless of how long it’s been since their loved one passed. This time is wrought with reminders of old memories: their favorite Christmas carol playing in the grocery store, the smell of baking cookies, the first snowfall of the year. But there are several things you can do to take care of yourself, prepare for this time of year, and include your loved one in your holiday traditions—and find joy in this season.

Be prepared.

Recognize that the holidays may be more difficult than other times of the year. Remember that it’s okay to grieve, and that you will need to approach certain events differently than you usually do. Before attending an event, have an exit strategy. You’re not obligated to stay at the office holiday party if you’re feeling overwhelmed or sad. Recruit a good friend to drive you in case you feel like leaving early. You’re also not obligated to attend an event at all, however many people find that being around others can be comforting. It's OK to limit your decorations or shop for presents online only. Planning ahead for certain situations can help you prevent added difficulty during this time.

Don’t think you have to do this alone.

It may have been months, years, or even decades since your loved one’s funeral service. But having the extra support of family, friends, and/or a grief counselor can be immensely helpful during the holidays, when grief can surge strongly. Loss is not supposed to be a burden one shoulders alone. Our Grief Resources page offers many resources for online and in-person counseling and support.

Love yourself.

This is often easier said than done. But making sure you’re well-rested and de-stressed can have significant benefits during this time. Exercise. Take time to decompress. Be careful not to overindulge in food or alcohol. They may feel comforting in the short-term but can have serious repercussions.

Be a comfort for someone else.

Volunteering your time and efforts to a charitable cause or to your community can feel deeply rewarding, and help you find peace in your grief. Whether it’s helping your neighbors put up their Christmas lights, spending an evening or two a week volunteering at a local food bank, or baking cookies for your co-workers, giving to others can be extremely emotionally and mentally beneficial. You may even consider donating funds to or volunteering for a cause that your loved one was dedicated to, helping you feel a deeper connection with your generosity.

Honor their memory.

Create a holiday tradition specifically to memorialize your loved one. Light a candle in their honor, have a prayer said for them during services at your church, prepare their favorite meal, or leave flowers on their grave. Honoring your loved one with a special ritual is a tangible reminder that your loved one may no longer be present, but your love for them always will be.

Create new traditions.

Your life continues, and it’s ok to try new things and incorporate new traditions. You can choose to begin an entirely made-up, creative tradition, or modify old ones to fit into your current phase of life. Making new traditions doesn’t mean you’re forgetting about your loved one, or that you’re ‘moving on.’ You’re creating new memories to bring you joy, that you’ll remember as fondly as the old ones.

French Funerals & Cremations has helped the families of Albuquerque and Rio Rancho through loss since 1907, and today we continue to provide support for those grieving, throughout every season. If you would like help finding support during this time, visit our Grief Resources page, or reach out to us at 505-843-6333 Our funeral directors and staff are also available at any time if you’d like to learn more about our funeral services, memorial services, cremation options, or burial services.

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