The Most Wonderful and Painful Time of Year: Coping with Holiday Grief

The holiday season can difficult. While the holidays are joyful, if you’re grieving a loss, the holidays can hurt. You can feel hope along with your pain.
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Last Updated
April 22, 2019
posted on
December 23, 2019
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3
Minute Read

The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most painful. While the holidays are joyful and full of activity, if you’re grieving a recent or past loss, the holidays can hurt. Perhaps you recently lost someone you love—a parent, a grandparent, or a friend. Maybe you lost a pregnancy and the hope of having a new baby at Christmas. Or perhaps you’re grieving a relationship that ended. You were supposed to celebrate the holidays together, but instead, you are apart.

Christmas can intensify our feelings of loss.

When we see delight around us, we are reminded of what we don’t have. I ache for my mother and father at Christmas. Christmas day was my father’s favorite day of the year, and he spent months thinking of unique gifts for each of us. My mother decorated every nook and cranny of our home. I see the look on their faces when we came down Christmas morning. I see my nephew sitting on my dad’s lap.

We ache for what we have no more, and we mourn what we never had—these are the roots of sadness at Christmas.

If this is you this Christmas—and it is many of us—by remembering to do two simple things, you can still feel hope during this season, or at least hope along with your pain.

Tend to your body.

I often urge parents and others to slow down during the holidays and not try and attend every single event and participate in every activity. I say this to help you cut back on the stress and anxiety that so often accompany this time of year.

But this goes for those who are grieving too. Remember to take care of your body first before saying yes to events to distract yourself or because you feel like you have to. Whatever is happening to your mind—sadness, grief, despair—is also happening to your body. Tend to your body, especially during the holiday season, by going to bed a little earlier, eating a healthy diet, and exercising enjoyably. You will be amazed at how these body-focused activities will affect your heart and mind.

Tend to your soul.

When you’re grieving a loss, it’s important to take care of your body as well as your soul, your heart, and what’s going on inside. One of the best ways to do this is by reaching out to friends or family.

This isn’t the time to be alone. Reach out to someone you could talk to or spend a few hours with. If you don’t want to have anyone over to your house, ask if you can go to theirs or if you could meet for coffee. Let them know how you’re doing. The only person who knows what you’re feeling is you. So be an advocate for yourself and ask for help.

I also recommend tending to your soul by reaching out to God.

Even though Christmas can bring out a lot of pain, Christmas is also the answer to that pain.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you probably know that I have a strong faith. I don’t always talk about it so openly, but I believe that God is real and that he sent himself in the person of his son Jesus to communicate his love to you and me. This is the message of Christmas. And this is why Christmas, the season that causes so much pain to surface, is also what can be the greatest healer of that pain.

There are not many certain truths in this world, but these are the most important and profound truths you could ever know: God is real. Christ is real. He rose from the dead, and he wants to let you know this very minute how very much he loves you. Let that bring you comfort this season.

Friends, if your loss feels magnified this time of year and you feel like everyone else is happy and laughing and enjoying the holidays, know you are not alone. A lot of us are in the same boat. We all miss someone, whether the loss is recent or happened years ago. Take care of yourself, reach out to someone, and if you aren’t grieving this season but know someone who is, reach out to him or her, share this post and let someone who may really need to hear know that you care.

Dr. Meg Meeker, MD

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello @MegMeekerMD

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