Blog : holidays

Grief During the Holidays

Grief During the Holidays

The holiday season is considered ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. But for those who have lost loved ones, it can be the most difficult time of the year. The approaching holidays can feel discouraging and often come with a complicated mix of sadness, sorrow, anger and pain as we miss the ones we have lost.

Grief during this time of year can also lend itself to feeling as if we must experience the holidays in a ‘normal’ way. Others often have expectations for us that can feel unmanageable and impossible to meet. Anticipating traditions that once brought delight can feel scary or painful.

What can we do if we are experiencing grief during the holidays?

Find a way to honor those that cannot be with you. A special ornament, a favorite dish at the dinner table, set aside time to share memories together, sing or play a special song, donate to a charity in their name, light a candle, volunteer your time in the community in their honor or create new traditions.

Help those who might also be grieving or need extra help during the holidays. Helping others and giving back can bring joy. It can be a new way to honor those lost and help someone who may be feeling the same difficulty during the season. Adopt a family to purchase gifts for, donate to an organization, volunteer your time, visit a nursing home, give to a local shelter or reconnect with those you have lost touch with.

Don’t feel guilty if it all feels like too much. It’s okay to not send out holiday cards if it is too difficult. It’s okay to say no to another holiday event. It is okay to not want to participate in everything. Allow yourself the space to be alone, make time for yourself, practice self-care and honor your own feelings. As well, don’t feel guilty if you are happy during the holidays. Feeling joy does not lessen how much you miss the person you have lost.

Ask for help. Identify the supportive people in your life that can offer a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to bring a dish, or two, or three when putting together a holiday spread feels like too much. Seek out those that would be willing to help you decorate when it all feels a bit daunting. Ask a friend to go shopping with you, meet for coffee or visit your loved one’s memorial with you. Oftentimes those around you want to help but just don’t know how. If you reach out, they often find great joy in being there for you.

Acknowledge that the holiday season will be different. When we enter the holidays expecting to feel the same amount of happiness we always have, we will experience even deeper sadness when feelings of grief come. Give yourself the permission to experience grief rather than feeling as if you must be happy to make the holiday ‘normal’. It is okay to feel the pain of your loss. The more we try to be strong and protect ourselves from the pain, the more it seems to grow. Allow yourself to feel the pain. Your pain is the result of love, and love should be honored and acknowledged.

Surviving Holiday Stress

Surviving Holiday Stress

By Tarah Elhardan, MA, LLPC

  1. Act in the Moment– Do one thing at a time. During the holidays there is so much to get done and it can feel very overwhelming. By putting all of your energy into one task it is more likely that you will complete it. Tackling the tasks one by one is most efficient and least stressful.
  2. Anticipate Challenges and Prepare- Is there one relative that you don’t get along with? Is there one activity that you always avoid? You are not alone. Everyone has something or someone that they do not look forward to. By identifying and becoming aware of your challenges, you can learn how to best prepare for them. Having an action plan will allow you to feel ready so that you can enjoy the holidays with those you care about the most.
  3. Say YES to Yourself- You may be feeling pulled in every direction. With so much to do and so little time, it is important to remember to schedule some “me” time. Make you your first priority so that you can help others and get ready for the holidays.
  4. Reconnect with Old and Establish New Traditions- Organize an event that you used to engage in during your childhood or make a new tradition to start with your family. Research has shown that experiences increase happiness more than material items.
  5. Engage Purposefully- Find a purpose in everything that you are doing. Having a purpose makes everything feel meaningful and worthwhile. Do and say things with a purpose. It will bring more satisfaction during the what can be, stressful holiday season.
  6. Sleep- Without sleep, there is a life filled with stress, irritability and a lack of energy. Rest up so that you can fully enjoy this holiday season.
  7. Breathe- From the beginning of November to the day after the New Year, it is go-go-go. Focus on your breath and remember to breathe. Basic breathing exercises and yoga can be very helpful to lessen the stress of the holiday season.
  8. Find Meaning- What is the holiday season all about? Is it about reconnecting with old friends and loved ones? Is it about donating your time and giving to those in need? Where you find meaning, you will find life this holiday season.
  9. Act Your Way to a New Feeling- It is so easy to say that you will start eating healthier or, take up running when you feel better, but who knows when that time will come? It is actually more likely that you will start feeling the way you want to when you engage in those activities.
  10. Remember that it is Only Temporary- The holidays come once a year and if it is something that your truly dread, remember that it will soon be over. You will get through it.

Remember that it is Only Temporary- The holidays come once a year and if it is something that your truly dread, remember that it will soon be over. You will get through it.Survivng Holiday Stress

Traverse City counselorTarah Elhardan, MA, LLPC is a counselor at the Traverse City counseling practice, Mental Wellness Counseling. She is especially interested in holistic approaches to counseling, anxiety, and helping women to overcome self esteem issues.


How to get through the holidays

How to get through the holidays

Traverse City Counseling Private practice

Step 001: know what you want and what makes you happy


Step 002: tell yourself that no matter what happens, you are going to do your best


Step 003: prepare your family as best as you can.



Step 004: do your best to be happier, more helpful, and a better person. Try to let things go.











































































counselor Traverse City counseling familyJoseph Sanok , MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor in Traverse City, MI, where he helps angry kids, frustrated  parents, and distant couples…and just about everyone else. He loves the holidays and can’t wait to eat pierogies!