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Navigating Grief During the Holiday Season


5 Coping Tips from Wellspring’s Employee Assistance Program

Loss and grief can happen anytime, but the impact may feel even more significant during the holidays. Getting through cherished traditions when dealing with difficult emotions can be painful and overwhelming. The seasonal demands on our time, presence, and energy can take a toll on our well-being.

Here are some tips to help you or someone you care about navigate grief during the holiday season.


Take stock

Reflect on what you have that can help nurture your well-being.

    • Yourself – with nutritional foods, artistic outlets, your job
    • Your Spiritual Self – with mindfulness, hope, prayer, meditation
    • Your Cognitive Self – with goal setting, music, games, interests
    • Your Relationships – with love, belonging, new and established connections


Assess how you feel

You may have conflicting feelings about participating in holiday events, particularly if certain ones feel too overwhelming. There may be some you feel you can manage, and some you may not be ready for. It may help to think through the activities you can tolerate, those you can’t or won’t, and give yourself permission to say no, or opt-out. If you find yourself repeatedly torn between wanting to participate and opting out, consider connecting with a therapist or a life or transition coach for help.


Create New Traditions

Some traditions may not be the same, particularly after losing a loved one, but new traditions can be created to celebrate the lives of those who are no longer with us. Some new traditions you might consider:

    • Light a candle in honor of your loved one
    • Put a holiday bouquet of flowers on the table
      • Use your loved one’s favorite flower or color to create something in their memory
      • Ask guests to each bring one flower and create a bouquet with all the flowers
    • Invite guests to share stories of your loved one after dinner or during dessert
    • Create a memory box or jar and fill it with photos of your loved one

These are just a few ways to bring the memory of your loved one to the holiday celebrations this year. Also, don’t be afraid to share what you can or cannot do with your holiday guests. Let them know if you can’t host this year, can’t cook the holiday dinner, etc. Talk it through with them, make a plan together, and know you are not alone.


Welcome positive emotions

Experts agree there is no right or wrong way to grieve nor is there a right way to feel while grieving. Allowing yourself to feel your emotions as you experience them, often helps with moving through the grieving process.

    • Remind yourself that you can act differently this year, and that’s ok
    • It’s OK to be OK; experiencing happiness or laughing during a time of grief does not mean you have forgotten your loved one
    • Enjoy holiday gatherings and celebrations
      • It’s OK to laugh while you cry; it doesn’t mean your loss is less deep
    • Receive gifts and allow others to offer you comfort


Care for Yourself

Your own well-being should be a top priority while navigating loss and grief.

    • Avoid self-medicating – this can be with food, alcohol, drugs, etc.
    • Care for yourself like you would a child – give yourself some grace and put yourself to bed at a reasonable time
    • Adjust tasks and errands to align with what you are comfortable with this year
      • Shop online instead of in stores if you are overwhelmed by crowds
    • If you are able, incorporate physical activities into your day to help nurture your well-being

While navigating the holidays during a time of grief and loss, remember to give yourself the time and space necessary to heal from your loss. If you find yourself overwhelmed for long periods of time, consider connecting with a therapist for help.


This content is from the webinar, “Navigating Grief During the Holiday Season” exclusively available to Wellspring EAP clients and their families. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

To learn more about Wellspring EAP, please visit

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