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Embrace Memories to Cope with Holiday Grief

For those who have lost a loved one, the holidays –a time of joy and thanksgiving–can be a painful reminder that the loved one is gone. While the sad feelings are normal, coping strategies can help people manage their feelings and enjoy the holiday season.

Embrace Memories to Cope with Holiday Grief“Traditionally, it is a time of family, friends and laughter, but for people who are in the grieving process, the holidays can enhance feelings of personal grief and separate us from what used to make us happy,” says Cynthia Bozich-Keith, a clinical assistant professor in Purdue University’s School of Nursing.

She says that although every person’s grief is individual, there are several things a grieving person can do to get through the season.

She offers the following suggestions:

    Be gentle with yourself. Be sure to take time out to care for yourself, whether it is through pampering or just slowing down your pace.

    Be sure to eat a nutritious diet, exercise, get adequate sleep and avoid alcohol.

    Talk about your feelings with people you love and who love you. Allow yourself the right to talk about the person who died. The process of sharing memories may help with the healing process.

    Set limits. Be realistic about the difference between what you want to do and what you can do vs. what you should do. “The shoulds will get you every time,” Bozich-Keith says. “It’s important to let go of the need to be perfect or doing it all. If you’re used to doing all of the shopping, cooking and decorating around the holidays, perhaps this is the year to share those things with others.”

    Don’t feel guilty if you find yourself enjoying yourself around the holidays. “It is not disrespectful to the memory of your loved one if you have a good time,” she says. “Your loved one would be happy to know you are enjoying yourself.”

    Embrace your memories and find comfort in them. “This is the bittersweet part,” she says. “Our memories often bring us to both tears and laughter, but they are what sustain us through the years.”

    Celebrate life. Attend a holiday or religious service if faith is part of your life. Some people find comfort in acts of remembrance such as donating a poinsettia in memory of a loved one at church or making a donation in their name to a charity. Also, recognize that it is acceptable to create new traditions.

Bozich-Keith says it is important to keep in mind that sadness is normal during the holidays, no matter how long ago the loss took place.

“Try to ride the wave of emotions and accept that feelings of sadness and pain are unavoidable and are heightened during certain times,” she says. “The intense feelings will pass, but grief is an ongoing process. Don’t ever expect closure. It gets easier with time, but there will always be an empty space at the table.”

Source: Purdue University

Embrace Memories to Cope with Holiday Grief

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Embrace Memories to Cope with Holiday Grief. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 20, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.