How to Cope with Loss of Your Loved One During the Holidays


How to Cope with Loss of Your Loved One During the Holidays

By Sarah Linn, MSW, LCSW

Loss of a loved one is especially difficult during special occasions such as holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and important milestones. Coping with these losses can at times seem unbearable and all consuming. People often find themselves batting down the hatches and preparing themselves to weather through the emotional storm the anticipation these events often create. Many times people yearn for a different way to weather these events which would allow you to both cope and honor your loved one. Consider these suggestions to healthily cope while honoring the relationship of your lost loved one.

  1. Chase negative memories with positive ones
    Depending on the nature of the loss of your loved one, some can be flooded with negative memories surrounding the context of his or her death. While it may take practice, attempting to remind yourself of positive memories can help shift your mood. Some even find it helpful to begin a journal to help log positive memories. This way in times of great sadness, the memories are more accessible to you to help shift your mood eliciting more positive emotions.

  2. Have a conversation with your lost loved one
    For some this may seem a little off-putting. This particular strategy depends on your beliefs regarding life after death. For those who believe in afterlife, having a conversation, whether in silence or aloud, can be comforting. Recognizing that while your loved one’s physical presence may no longer be, their spiritual presence still remains. This practice can instill a sense of closeness to this person and promote a continued spiritual relationship.

  3. Create a memory box
    Some find comfort in creating a box or special place to keep important belongings/articles that remind them of the relationship they have with this significant person. Individuals even get creative, decorating the outside of the box in which they keep these important belongings/articles. This method of coping can be especially helpful if you are not able to visit their loved one’s final resting place (ie grave site).

  4. Write a letter
    Writing a letter to whom you have lost, discussing both exciting and not so exciting occurrences from your life in the past year can be helpful. In this letter, you can discuss what it was like to live these moments without your special person by your side. This can serve as a means of emotional expression and allows you to still include your loved one in important life events.

  5. Get together with family members or friends to engage in your favorite activities you used to do with your loved one ( i.e. hiking, going to a park, playing a game or listening to their favorite music).
    What a wonderful way to honor the person in your life who whose physical presence no longer remains, by celebrating their life by doing what they loved. This can serve as an opportunity to reminisce about positive memories shared amongst one another and creating a positive, supportive and loving event.

  6. Wear a piece of jewelry or clothing which remind you of the relationship you have with them.
    Many people who have lost someone important carry a belonging or article from the person whom they have lost as a reminder that this person is still with them. Trends have moved towards even creating jewelry with finger prints of their lost loved one or meaningful quotes to serve as a special daily reminder of their relationship.

  7. Release Balloons
    You may purchase balloons reminiscent of the occasion they are honoring (ie birthdays, favorite color of the person etc). You can choose to write messages to the person they have lost as a way of communicating to them. Some even choose to release the balloons at their loved one’s favorite place such as park, lake, vacation spot, etc.

  8. Cook your loved one's favorite meal or food
    Cooking their favorite meal can serve as a reminder of positive memories you shared when having that meal together. Some even gather family members to partake in the meal as a means to celebrate their special person's life.

  9. Set a place at the table for your loved one
    Saving a place at the table for the important person you lost can help honor them by giving them extra recognition during this special occasion and attestation that your relationship with them still exists.

While these activities will not bring back the physical presence of the significant person in your life whom you have lost, they will help elicit more positive feelings about the relationship you had and still have with them. Engaging in these coping skills will help create more moments of relief from your grief and create space for snippets of calmness during these events. This allows you to have more control in your grief process. Instead of batting down the hatches, you may be able to feel empowered to weather the emotional waves of your grief, knowing you have created a positive way to cope with your loss. Grieving does not mean removing the person from your life. Instead in healthy grieving you learn to develop a new and different kind of connection with your lost loved one. These activities will help you learn to accept the loss by finding new ways to remain close to your lost loved one.