Coping with sadness when everyone else is jolly

  • “Now that Grandpa’s gone, who’s going to carve the turkey?”
  • “I don’t have the energy or desire to shop, decorate or be with people this year.”
  • “I just want to erase Hanukkah. Without my husband, I feel too empty to celebrate.” 

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, New Year’s—all are difficult for people who have experienced the death of someone they love. Memories of good times and togetherness at the holiday season remind us of our loss. It can be painful to watch others who are celebrating when we feel overwhelmed, lonely or sad.

Holidays force us to realize how much our lives have been changed by a recent death, particularly in the first year, when we must develop new holiday rituals and traditions.

The first step in coping with grief at the holidays is to acknowledge that the season will be difficult. Then prepare for it by making specific plans and obtaining the support you need. And remember that the anticipation of a holiday can sometimes be more difficult than the day itself.

There is no right or wrong way to celebrate a holiday after the death of a loved one. The best way to cope with a difficult holiday season is to be nice to yourself:

  1. Plan ahead
  2. Get support from others
  3. Take it easy 

(Provided by VITAS Innovative Hospice Care, which cares for patients and families throughout the Chicagoland area. Go to