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Grief and the holidays

Grief and the holidays

Walking around your neighborhood or local shops at this time of year, there is a constant reminder that the holidays are a time of happiness and celebration with family and friends.

But if you are grieving the death of a loved one or have experienced another type of loss, the holidays can often magnify that sense of grief.

If the idea of getting to the New Year feels like a struggle, here are some ideas to help.

  1. Be honest with yourself about what you can handle. You might welcome the distraction of holiday decorating and preparation. Or you might not feel up to doing everything you usually do. Give yourself some grace. Social events may be more draining than usual. It’s okay not to accept every invitation; don’t let others make you feel obligated. If you’re attending an event, try to take your own transportation so you can leave when you’re ready.
  2. Keep some old traditions, and make new ones, too. Continuing a tradition you shared with a loved one who’s gone can make you feel closer, even if it is bittersweet. There can also be comfort in creating a new tradition to honour their memory – lighting a candle, creating a memory box or quilt, putting out a new special ornament, or engaging in a meal or activity that your loved one enjoyed while sharing memories, for example.
  3. Remember that people grieve differently. It’s not uncommon for people to have a sense of guilt if they catch themselves feeling happiness or joy while they’re grieving – or resenting others for doing so. But grief has no rules or timetable.
  4. Be kind to yourself. With grief, you may be fine in the morning, but by the afternoon or the evening you may feel differently – and that’s normal. Don’t worry if you can’t or don’t want to do as much you usually do. The holidays can be draining in the best of times, and grief is exhausting. Give yourself a break.
  5. Connect with others who might understand. There can be comfort in talking with others who understand what you are going through and can relate to how challenging the holidays can be.

There are also some excellent resources online that can help. Visit for resources and information.

The care team at Hospice House Kelowna provides people with a place to live, find comfort, and connect. Hospice House is a part of Interior Health’s Hospice Palliative Care Program.