How Do You Process Grief During the Holidays?

How Do You Process Grief During the Holidays?

The holidays are usually associated with a jolly and festive mood. For most, this is the time for family, friends, gratitude, and reflection. However, others go through the experience of grief and the holidays at the same time. 

Grieving is challenging on its own, but going through this process during the holidays can make this more difficult. Whether you’re struggling with processing your grief or know someone who might be going through this, there are ways to cope that can help make the grieving process during the holiday season a little bit easier. So if you're interested in learning more, keep reading!

How Exactly Do People Experience Grief?

There's no single way that people experience grief. Grief makes some people feel emotions like anger, despair, and guilt. Others are affected physically; they might lose sleep or lose their appetite. Some experience a combination of all these. The bottom line is that no pattern of grief applies to everyone. 

What Are the Usual Reasons That People Go Through Grief?

There are different reasons why people might experience the feeling of grief. The most common one is when a loved one passes away.  However, this isn't the only situation that can lead to this difficult time. Some people can grieve over a career loss, financial issue, a failed relationship, or even a sense of their own identity. The types and feelings of grief that someone experiences vary between people. 

Is It Hard for People to Process Grief During the Holidays?

People look forward to holiday celebrations each year, but for some, the holiday season might be a time of grief. Celebrating the holidays during the grieving process is complicated.

Even if a recent event does not cause their grief, the festivities, like having a holiday dinner or simply doing holiday routines, can trigger an experience of suffering in many ways. For example, sitting around a holiday table and not seeing a loved one with them can be painful.

How Can You Cope With Grief During the Holiday Season?

If you are experiencing grief during this holiday season, some ways can help you cope. While the grieving process is different for each person, you can find some sense of comfort during a particular holiday season with these tips. 

  • Allow yourself to grieve - One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to allow yourself to feel whatever it is you're feeling. You don't have to force yourself to feel better or act a certain way so that you can participate in holiday events. Remember that all of your feelings are valid, even during a difficult holiday season. 
  • Start new holiday traditions - While some people want to keep doing rituals they've been doing during previous holidays, others might find this unbearable. If you're someone who might be uncomfortable with this idea, you can think of new rituals or traditions to do. For example, perhaps you can watch a different holiday movie or participate in a charity event you haven't considered yet.  
  • Ask for help - It's important to remember that while a grief experience can feel isolating and lonely, it doesn't have to be that way. If you're okay with the idea, you can spend some time with people and ask them for any help you might need to help you get through your grieving journey. 

5 Common Ways That People Cope With Grief

In addition, other people have other ways of dealing with intense emotions. Whether they're experiencing grief during holiday events or not, here are five common ways that people cope with their grief. 

Caring for Themselves

While challenging, some people try to cope with their grief by caring for their physical and mental health. For example, some people find time to exercise and eat healthy foods. 

Writing Down Feelings

Other people find that writing down their emotions also helps them go through a time of bereavement. They write letters that express what they would've wanted the deceased to know or have a grief journal where they can let their thoughts out. 


Sometimes, something as simple as crying can already help a lot. Instead of keeping emotions in, crying acknowledges the pain that someone goes through. 

Sharing Memories

Another common way people cope is by sharing memories of the deceased. Sharing these memories with family or friends helps them process their thoughts and emotions. 

Honoring the Deceased

Lastly, some people find comfort in remembering and honoring a loved one they lost. This can include looking at old photo albums or lighting a candle to honor the deceased; keeping a deceased's memory alive can be helpful.

How Do People Honor a Lost Loved One During the Holidays?

Now, if honoring the deceased is something that you think can help you, you might be wondering how exactly you can do this during the holidays. There are various ways to do this, but here are some ideas you can consider:

  • Play the deceased's favorite holiday music
  • Include the deceased's favorite food in your holiday meal
  • Offer a moment of silence before a holiday toast
  • If you and the people you're celebrating with are religious, you can say a holiday prayer with the deceased in mind
  • Put up holiday decorations in honor of the deceased

Is There Such a Thing as Three C’s for Grief?

Yes, a helpful guide to help you navigate your grief during the holidays exists. Grief expert Kenneth J. Doka, Ph.D., recommended "3C's" to keep in mind as you go through a holiday occasion. These "Three C's" are choose, communicate, and compromise. 

  • Choose - Choose what holiday tasks or activities you want or can be a part of. You might feel pressured to keep up a festive mood and be fully present, but you can always opt-out or select only certain events to participate in so you can feel in control and cope with your grief. 
  • Communicate - While you've set your boundaries, it's also important to let others know about these decisions, especially if there are people who will be affected. For example, you can have a little family meeting to let them know what you're okay with or not okay with. 
  • Compromise - The way a person grieves is unique, and there's really no proper way to do this. For example, a family member might want a holiday meal with the deceased's favorite dish, but others might be uncomfortable with that idea. Having a conversation and coming up with a compromise ensure that both persons' grieving process is respected.

Experiencing grief during the holidays can be very overwhelming. However, keeping these "three C's" in mind can help you through this challenging period. 

What Should People Say and Do to Others Who Are Grieving?

If you know someone who's experiencing grief, you might wonder what you can do or say, especially during the upcoming holidays. You can express your sympathy verbally by saying how sorry you are or by letting them know you've got their backs. 

You can also show them that you care by simply being around them - listening to their stories, offering a shoulder to cry on, or helping with any holiday preparations or household chores. Another thing you can do is by giving them some gifts. 

3 Meaningful Holiday Gift Ideas for People Who Are Grieving

Holiday Food Basket

If they're planning to celebrate, you can give them a gift basket filled with food you know they would like. Some examples include fruits and chocolates or a tin of holiday cookies. 
food basket
Source image from

Watercolor Memorial Portrait 

For a bereaved who copes best by cherishing their memories of the deceased, giving them a customized watercolor painting of their loved one can mean so much. This piece of artwork can memorialize the deceased, not only during the holidays but for many years to come. 

Get Your Memorial Portrait

Get Your Memorial Portrait Here

Voice Memorial with QR Code

Similarly, you can also gift your friend or loved one with a voice memorial. This unique art piece allows the bereaved to listen to a special recording of their loved one whenever they want to. 

Get Your Voice Memorial with QR Code

Get Your Voice Memorial with QR Code Here

Helpful Tips for Those Having a Hard Time Grieving During the Holidays

After reading all the different ways of coping with grief during the holidays, if you're still finding it challenging to consider and put these into practice, here are some tips to remember:

Try to Be Honest With Your Feelings

To reinforce the idea, remember that you don't need to put up a facade. Grief doesn't choose the right time for it to be felt. So even during the holidays, try to acknowledge what you're feeling. Remember, you don't need to pretend that you're okay when you're not. 

Take a Break if You Need To

When things get overwhelming, it's also best to remember that you can always step back and take a breather. Even if you've chosen to participate in a holiday activity, if you're suddenly overcome with strong emotions, you can take some time for yourself. 

Know More About Coping With Grief During the Holidays by Checking Out Memorialize Art

Although grief during the holidays can be difficult, it’s also a time when people often come together to support one another. If you or someone you know is grieving, hopefully, these tips will help make the holiday season a little bit easier. And if you’re looking for ways to give back and show your support, consider some of the meaningful gift ideas mentioned. For more information about grief and how to memorialize loved ones who have passed away, please visit Memorialize Art.