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Grieving During the Holidays

Taking Grief and Loss Cues from the Holidays

David A Morris, LCSW


Grieving during the holidays can be difficult.

When we lose someone close to us the pain is palpable, the crying can be everyday, and the loneliness is scary. As the years pass many of us start to feel better and it seems just as we do: the holidays. Sometimes we are not prepared or even thinking about our lost loved one or friend, but then our grief wells up inside and the memories flood in. It’s been twelve years since I lost my dad to a head injury from an accident. I knew things would eventually return to normal, but I wasn’t ready for my grief to show up uninvited during the holidays.

Most psychologists agree that the external clues from these seasons can trigger the memories of our loved ones. The smell of a certain food cooking, hearing of a familiar song, funny turns-of-phrase they used to say; they pull our implicit, deeper recall straight into our present day. For me, it was the way my dad made a “pssstsshhhh” sound as he stopped the car in front of the house, as if we were being dropped off by the bus:) The pain of the loss is still there, but how do we cope with it and let it pass? See a few ideas below:

Don’t Go Around or Over, Go Through It
Avoiding or evading the pain will not send it away. It actually may increase its intensity the next time it arises. Instead, sit with it, observe it, know where it is coming from and then gracefully let it pass on by.

Use it for Motivation
Painful reminders can motivate us to reach out to others, give a donation in the deceased name, achieve a small goal, or connect with someone we have been avoiding.

Be Cautious/Grab a Friend
Avoid stimulants or depressants to numb this pain. It can have the opposite effect. You may end up dwelling on your loss and spiraling into a more depressive state. Go through it with a close friend or family member, without your vice, so you can let it go each time with a clean conscience.

Contact us at New Directions Counseling Services to cope with your grieving this season. 724.934.3905