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No matter where you may be in you in your grief journey, chances are you are facing a “first.” Perhaps, it’s the first Christmas or Hanukkah without your loved one. Or your loved one’s first “after-death” birthday or anniversary.

Maybe it’s the first time you’ll see certain people or send out cards signed with your name only. Maybe it’s the first time you put up a Christmas tree, attend the office party. The first time you, alone, had to worry about a leaky roof or the selling of a house.

As much as we might wish we could ignore the season of “firsts,” we know we can’t and are often surprised when the anticipation turns out to be worse than the actual event. The day itself, whether it’s a birthday or holiday, is seldom as bad as the days leading up to it.

So relax. Take a deep breath and try not to project how you will feel or behave on any given day. Every “first” we conquer makes us stronger, moving us from one point of our grief to the next. Moving us ever closer to healing.


Forget about celebrating the holidays; celebrate the birth of Jesus or Miracle of Lights.

Place your focus on deepening your relationships.

Stay connected to friends and family.

Allow time every day for inspirational reading, meditation, or prayer.

Fill your house with music. If the traditional holiday music is too painful, try the healing sounds of Mozart and Beethoven.

Enjoy the healing power of nature. Plan as much time outdoors (as weather permits). Feed the birds, take long walks, play in the snow or sit on a park bench.

Cry when you feel the need, but don’t be afraid to laugh.

Gratitude is the point from which healing begins; instead of focusing on what you lost, focus on the many blessings that remain.


Heartache is love that has no place to go. Giving of yourself during the holidays is one of the best ways to ease the pain. Volunteer your time or buy something your loved one liked and give it to someone in need.

Plan a special way to remember your loved one: wear a white rose, plan a simple graveside ceremony, donate money to your favorite charity in your loved one’s name.

Don’t be afraid to mention your loved one’s name and share happy memories of holidays past.

To plan a holiday exactly the way it has been for 20 years will be comforting for some but can be extremely traumatic for others. Call a family conference to discuss the best way of proceeding. Let everyone express the needs and wishes. Through compromise and negotiation, everyone can get a little of what they need. Be guided by the reality that there no right or wrong way to celebrate or not celebrate.

It helps to be around people who have experienced similar losses. Join a grief group or plan a special gathering with friends who you know are also grieving loss.


Grief is tough on the body, and even more so during the holidays: Get extra rest and exercise. Invite friends and family to join you for a holiday walk. Try to spend at least fifteen minutes a day in the sun. Exercise and sunshine will help fight depression.

If the hustle-bustle of the shopping mall is too much for you, try shopping on the Internet or through catalogs. Instead of gifts, consider inviting friends and family to a play, concert or movie – your treat.

Pamper yourself with a long hot baths. Treat yourself to a facial or massage.

Your body is overworked with grief; don’t burden it more with too much alcohol or caffeine, and try to stay away from junk foods.

Don’t expect too much from yourself. No matter what you do, you will not feel as joyous as you have felt in years past. Don’t judge yourself harshly just because your emotions may be more volatile during holidays. Recognize that your distress and anxiety about the holidays is normal. Thousands of other bereaved men and women have felt as you are currently feeling. Try to be in tune with your feelings and respond appropriately. If you feel like crying, cry. If you feel the need to retreat and be alone for a few hours, then do so.

If, in the past, you were primarily responsible for making the holiday a rich family experience, ask and allow family and friends to help you with shopping, baking, cooking, decorating and wrapping.

Enjoying parts of the holidays does not mean you are being unfaithful to your deceased loved one. If is not a betrayal to experience some joy. Just as you give yourself permission to mourn during the holidays,give yourself permission to have joy.

 Have a blessed and Healing Holiday Season

Insights by Margaret Brownley (Simi Valley, CA), Victor Parachin (grief recovery facilitator – Claremont, CA) 

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