By Last Updated: August 3rd, 2022

Losing a Loved One and Grieving at the Holidays

The holidays are often referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for people who have just experienced the loss of a loved one, it can also be the most emotionally challenging. As you are decorating the tree, lighting the menorah, or making cookies, you might be taken back to past holidays when your loved one was alive and suddenly feel extreme sadness. For those who are experiencing their first holiday season after the loss of a loved one, here are some tips for getting through it.

Celebrate your loved one by participating in past traditions

Is there a favorite dish that your loved one enjoyed preparing? Do you always save the angel at the top of the tree for your loved one to carefully place? It’s important to continue to keep these traditions going, as this will keep their memory and spirit alive in you and your family or friends’ hearts. So, now when you place the angel on top of the tree, think of them and how much they relished this custom.

Start new traditions

While it’s important to honor your loved one by keeping old traditions going, it’s just as important to start new ones. Maybe you always eat ham every year on Christmas Day when you’d really like to eat shrimp. Maybe you never get a real tree. Don’t feel guilty for starting new customs, but embrace the addition of some new ones and creating a balance between old and new memories.

young woman grieving alone in a dark stairway near downtown los angeles

Give yourself space

The holiday season can be one of the most social seasons of the year, with an abundance of parties and get-togethers. However, if you are in the process of grieving, the idea of going to a party and talking to people might feel daunting. How do you put on a happy face when you’re feeling anything but? Remember that you don’t have to go to every party (unless you want to!). Give yourself the space to grieve and mourn, but don’t isolate yourself, as that can make you feel alone in your grief.

Acknowledge your feelings

During the holiday season, you might be extremely sad one minute and on a high the next. Let yourself experience these feelings and don’t apologize for having them. Grief comes in a variety of emotions and forms, and one minute you may be crying while the next minute you may be laughing. Allow yourself to enjoy the holiday season without feeling guilty, and allow yourself to acknowledge your pain, too.

older woman consoling sad husband during after loss of family member

Reach out to your support system

Sometimes the loss of a loved one causes people to retreat or isolate themselves from others, but reaching out to family, friends, or maybe even a therapist can help you work through your grief and have a support system to bend your ear to. You’re going through a lot of emotions right now and the last thing you want to do is ignore them. If they are a good support system, your family and friends will be happy you reached out to them.

Find an outlet

Whether you’ve just experienced the loss of a loved one or not, anyone can tell you that the holiday season is overwhelming. You have to buy gifts, go to parties, send holiday cards, make sure the decorations are up—the list of things to do can feel vast. It’s important to find something that gives you solace or peace, whether it’s wrapping gifts while watching Hallmark movies, meditation, mindful breathing or something else entirely. Make sure you have something that you can count on to relieve stress and help you cope with all of the stresses of the season.

Friends celebrating at Christmas party outside of El Segundo


Grief can be a very insular process, where you are only focused on yourself. However, one way to get out of your head is to volunteer and think about those who are less fortunate than you during the holiday season. This can involve volunteering with children, the homeless, or maybe even visiting the elderly in nursing homes. Many times when you help others, it gives you happiness in that you were able to make someone else smile when it hurts for you to do the same.

The good news about grieving during the holiday season is that there is no wrong or right way to do it. You may find something that helps that is not on this list, and if that is the case, keep doing it if it makes you feel good. But whatever you do, make sure you give yourself the space and the time to heal.

About Opal Cremation

Opal Cremation offers affordable cremation services in Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego counties in Southern California, with locations in El Segundo, Costa Mesa, and Carlsbad. For more information, call 1-888-963-2299.

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