How to Deal with Grief Over the Festive Season

How to Deal with Grief

While there’s never a good time to experience a significant loss, the festive season can amplify the grieving process and make each day, and even minute, feel impossible to tolerate. There are ways how to deal with grief during what can often feel like an overwhelming time.

Grief comes in many forms.

It might not necessarily be for a person lost but for a lifestyle. Losing your home to flooding, a relationship that went wrong, a change in health or losing a beloved pet are all reasons to grieve.

If the loss has been recent and this Christmas is a ‘first’, you might not know what to expect. To get through the festive season, we offer some tips on dealing with grief.

  • Be kind to yourself

You don’t have to show up to events with a smile. Nor do you have to join in the celebrations. You don’t even have to get dressed if you don’t want to.

Maybe you feel like honouring your loved one by sorting old photos and putting them into the cloud, posting memories on Facebook, eating a tub of ice cream while watching sad movies, or replanting the garden with your favourite flower.

Whatever you feel like doing to get through the day, just do that. And do it without guilt of what you ‘should’ be doing.

  • Connect with your heart

Examine how you are feeling about the loss. You may feel regret that you didn’t spend enough quality time with the one you have lost. You may regret not having appreciated your home before the flooding. Acknowledge these feelings but don’t become trapped in them.

Try to enjoy the people and items that matter to you. Start a gratitude journal and write down the things you are grateful for that day. It may be something as simple as a beautiful sunrise, the sparkling ocean, the wind in your hair, or the fact that you have good hearing to appreciate beautiful music.

  • Spend time in your loss

Look through old photo albums to remember the good times and how you celebrated holidays, birthdays and the festive season. Have mental conversations with the one you lost.

If you feel up to it, bring in a new tradition – like buying an ornament for the Christmas tree that will have meaning for you both. Even if you don’t put up a tree this year, stash the ornament for next year when you can celebrate the person with less pain.

  • Spend time outdoors

Studies show that being outside has enormous benefits for mild anxiety and depression associated with a significant loss.

Walking in a rainforest and stopping at one of the beautiful waterfalls will bring you closer to the one you have lost. Place your hand on a tree trunk, close your eyes and feel the energy of nature.


We are all connected, and through this practice, known as walking meditation, you will feel more at peace and closer to the one you have lost.

  • Deep breathing

When your heart feels like it wants to shut down with the sadness, sit comfortably – preferably under the trees outside or on a beach. Listen to the sounds of nature or the cyclic sound of the waves breaking and be conscious of your breath as you fill your lungs.

Place your hands on your belly and feel the breath as your belly fills too. Slowly breathe out. You can count starting with a six-second in-breath, hold for six seconds, and then breathe out slowly. The exhale should be longer than the inhale.

Relax, then repeat until you feel your body relax and your heart open.

  • Allocate some time for things you enjoy

Acknowledge your grief and when you feel ready, start taking up the activities you enjoyed doing. Take beach or forest walks or go swimming in the ocean or a creek. Join a fitness class, go sailing, fishing, or for a motorbike ride and consciously try to share that joy with the one who has passed.

  • Don’t allow yourself to be pressured

There can be a tendency over the festive period to put a brave face on for the benefit of others even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing. If you have young children, it can be harder to ignore the festivities, but don’t feel you have to show up as you usually would for the sake of others.

If you don’t feel up to going out with friends, that is fine. Explain that you are not up to it yet and promise you will be in touch when you’re ready.

If you’d rather spend the season away in a different environment with just one friend or relative who understands your situation, then do so. Be alone if you’d rather but try not to isolate yourself for long periods at a time.

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Christmas and New Year come around every 365 days. If you don’t feel up to celebrating this year, don’t force it. Life is different now, and you may start making new traditions to incorporate with the old ones.

It’s essential that you don’t fast forward into the future but take things day by day, tackling what you have the energy to do and acknowledging your grief. The loss will forever change you, but you learn to adapt and, with time, can remember with fondness and love rather than the raw pain of recent bereavement.


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