Five Questions to Ask as You Cope with Grief during the Holidays

The holiday season can be one of the hardest times for grieving people, even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Traditions that were joyful can lead to sadness, as they remind you of the person you’ve lost. 

This year may be even more difficult for grievers. Gathering with loved ones who are still here may not be possible as we try to keep our families, friends, and ourselves safe during the pandemic.

Even if you haven’t experienced the loss of a person, mourning the loss of holiday traditions due to COVID-19 can cause grief of its own, too.

If you’re struggling to cope with grief this holiday season, ask yourself these five questions to create a holiday season that is meaningful and manageable.

How has COVID-19 made it harder for you to grieve during the holidays?

For many grievers, the difficulty this year will come from limits on large family gatherings, indoor concerts, and other activities that aren’t safe as COVID-19 cases rise. 

Think about the particular things you will miss, and consider how you can approximate that experience.

Maybe you couldn’t gather in-person for Thanksgiving, but you can set up a Zoom call to connect. 

If you can’t handle more time on video chat, plan an outdoor, physically-distant walk with your loved ones. Bundling up, getting some fresh air, and sharing stories may be just what you need.

Has COVID-19 made it easier to grieve?

For some people, having COVID-19 as a (very good) excuse to avoid holiday obligations is a relief. 

I urge everyone to take a “self-care” approach this year. 

For example, buy a pre-cooked turkey from the store if you don’t feel like cooking a feast. Or just order pizza. Whatever feels best to you, do it.

What is something you will not do this holiday season due to grief and/or COVID-19?

There may be traditions that are too painful to continue this year. It may be setting up your Christmas tree. Perhaps it’s all of your holiday traditions. 

Be open and honest with your family and friends about what you can and cannot handle. 

What is one thing you will be sure to hold on to this holiday season?

It may help to honor your lost loved one during the holiday season. 

Plan which family member can cook a holiday dish usually prepared by the deceased. Others may feel comforted by placing a picture of their lost loved one at the holiday table, or by donating to his or her favorite charity.

Even if your family doesn’t share feelings openly, this creates a way to reflect and honor their loved one’s memory.

Do you have someone to support you through this holiday season?

Having more “grief attacks” is totally normal during the holidays. It’s also normal to struggle to concentrate; to feel more anger, loneliness, anxiety, guilt; and to cry more.

Find people who can support you when these feelings get overwhelming.

If you don’t have a friend or family member to turn to, Hospice of the South Shore hosts free grief support workshops so you can connect with others who are navigating a loss.

Remember that both COVID-19 and your intense grief will not last forever. Things will get easier.

Learn more about Hospice of the South Shore.