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How Do I Get Through The Holidays Without My Loved One?


Ideas on how to survive the holidays after the death of a loved one

This title is an overwhelming question that you may have been ruminating on since the end of Summer, which leads to Fall, which leads to Thanksgiving and December, where it feels like there are more holidays than days. Is the anticipation of what is going to happen and what it will look like for you this year adding more stress to your life than you can handle? Breathe. Number one, you are NOT alone in feeling this way. Number two, remember to breathe. Breathing is the key to success in all aspects of grief. Nothing anyone can say or do will make this pain any better, but focusing on breathing can help remind you that you are still here. You are still alive.

So, how are you supposed to get through the holidays without your loved one?
First, don’t set expectations for yourself. This may be the first holiday without your loved one or you may have lost your loved one years ago, but for some reason, this year feel especially hard. Putting yourself in a situation where you are cooking for 20 people, the sole provider for presents or party planning may be difficult for you this year. Tell your family and friends that you would like to take this year to be more of an observer and partake where you can. Being busy may be the most beneficial for you. That is fine, but enlist help. You need to be able to take time when you need it. To cope. To grieve. To Breathe.

Next, take care of you. The holidays are about giving, family, friends and loved ones. It’s okay to feel lost and unsure of how to handle this time. It will come and go, just like all of the events and holidays since the death of your loved one. You got through all of that. You can get through this. It is another day. Take time to do what you want (ie. Be alone, take a bath, rest, cry, watch movies, be with whoever you want to be with). The most important thing is to be in tune with how you are feeling and care taking for those feelings. Other people can wait. Your feelings can not.

Let go of other’s expectations or judgments. This is easier said than done. Other people are observers to your life, maybe your thoughts (if you so kindly shared) and/or your emotions. There is not one other person that had the same relationship or feelings for your loved one that you did. A lot of people make judgments and expectations for those grieving in hopes that they will help you “move on” and “get better”. Do judgments and high expectations help? Absolutely not. When on the receiving end this holiday season, remember that only you can truly understand how you feel. Be mindful, accept it and let it be.

Talk to your loved one. They may not physically be on this earth anymore, but their spirit is. If that is not your system of belief, then do what makes you feel connected to your loved one. Maybe play their favorite song, visit their resting place, go to their favorite restaurant, watch your favorite movie together, do what makes you feel connected, if that is what you need. Don’t worry what other people think. This is not about them. It is about you and that is okay.

Don’t feel guilty for celebrating or being joyous during the holidays because your loved one is not here anymore. It is a blessing that you had your loved one in your life and spent time together for the holidays. It is okay to be happy, smile, laugh. Feeling these emotions does not mean that you have forgotten your loved one or that you have moved on. It means that you are living in the current moment. Let go of others people’s judgments around how you handle the holiday. If you want to put up a tree, put up a tree. If you don’t, don’t. Do what feels good for you.

In short, remember to take care of you, do what feels good and don’t just breathe. Breathe.

Katherine E. Sargent, MS, LMHC, NCC

Katherine owns a private practice in Rochester, NY and works with teenagers, adults, couples and families. Katherine specializes in relationships, grief/loss, depression and anxiety.

Sargent, Katherine. "Community Post: How Do I Get Through The Holidays Without My Loved One?" BuzzFeed Community. 7 Dec. 2015. Web. 25 Dec. 2015.