Coping With Grief and Loss During the Holidays

The holidays can be especially difficult for those who have experienced loss. Whether you have lost a parent, grandparent or beloved pet, the holidays can be a sad time for those who are grieving.

“The holidays are difficult for those who have lost someone because they trigger many reminders of times shared in the past and bring up the reality that a loved one is no longer present,” said Susan Lax, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Lahey Health Behavioral Services. “Humans thrive on connection and to lose connection is one of the greatest losses we experience.”

Lax recommends several strategies for dealing with loss during the holidays:

  • Remember the loved one through story telling about their lives, their character traits, and experiences he or she shared with you or others. Remember the mundane, unusual, sad or silly.
  • Serve the loved one’s favorite food in remembrance.
  • Hang his or her favorite ornament on your tree.
  • Create personal rituals of remembrance and/or devote a special place in your home in tribute of your loved one.
  • Take care of yourself, including eating well and getting plenty of sleep and exercise.

At the same time, Lax suggests that we make a special effort to connect with our loved ones who are still living. “Reflect with others about the experience of life and death, and commit to accepting life and death with wonder and curiosity. Share with others expressions of love, grief, sorrow and gratitude. This will help you get through the holidays,” she said.

Lahey Health Behavioral Services offers a range of outpatient counseling services for adults, families, couples and youths. Also, if you or your loved one is experiencing a psychiatric or substance use crisis, the 24-hour Emergency Psychiatric Services teams can help. Call the crisis team nearest you or call 978.745.1585.


*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.

MORE IN Live Well