How to Approach Grief at the Holidays

As we enter the holidays, we enter a difficult time of year for those dealing with grief. Dwell's Grief Ministry recently offered its Navigating Holiday Grief workshop, and offers this summary of practical, hope-inspiring ideas to help deal with the many challenges that come this time of year: 

Talk About Your Grief

While many people use the words "grieving" and "mourning" interchangeably, there is an important distinction. Grief is the many internal thoughts and feelings we experience when a loved one dies; mourning is the outward expression of our grief. Rather than avoid your grief, lean into it. Expressing your grief can be an important way out of the pain.

Be Tolerant of Your Limits

Grieving takes energy and you may not be up to the physical and mental challenges of the many activities in which you usually participate. Give yourself permission to have "up and down" feelings. Don't feel guilty if you're not happy all the time. It is very normal and acceptable to have feelings of pain and joy simultaneously and to cry and laugh even while you grieve. Don’t be afraid to ask God for comfort and peace. He is the “God of all comfort who comforts us in our troubles.” (2 Cor. 3:3-4).

Eliminate Unnecessary Stress

Streamline what you traditionally did in years past and eliminate things that are no longer important. You might decorate less, shop less, or attend fewer parties. If you feel you've taken on too much, ask friends and family to share some of the tasks. You do not have to take responsibility for the happiness of others at holiday time.

Talk About the Loved One Who Has Died

Remembering our loved ones is important to processing our grief. Holidays are a time for reflection. Stories and memories will be with us for our lifetimes and are a true source of pleasure. Teach others that love lasts forever, that you need to remember, and that this is your reality for handling grief.

Plan Ahead for Social Gatherings

You may find yourself in social situations that now are uncomfortable because of your loss. You should prepare for those awkward moments and thoughtless  remarks that are certain to happen. Think through how you will answer, and stay with your prepared responses. Have an exit strategy if you might be “trapped” in a social setting, e.g., drive your own car or go with a supportive friend.

Do Something for Others

Even in the depths of grief, you still can find ways to serve others. Performing a simple acts of kindness can be really good for a grieving person's spirit. You could donate food or a meal to a homeless shelter, visit the elderly in a nursing home, or initiate with others you know who are grieving. You might even ask others to donate to a charity rather than purchase a gift for you. 

Express Your Doubt

Anger at God and doubt are not incompatible with faith in God. The notion that belief in God demands calm acceptance of everything that comes your way is false. If you stifle such emotions and don’t ask the “why” questions, you will be shutting yourself off from finding answers. The Psalms teach us that it’s never wrong to cry out to God in our despair. God hears us in our pain and welcomes us to draw near to him.

Affirm Your Faith

Above all, remember the spiritual truths of Christmas, and find comfort in them. The holidays may not be joyful for you but they can still be an opportunity to give thanks for the birth of Jesus, and God’s plan of salvation which resulted from his birth. Jesus was born, not only to save us from our sins, but to heal the pain and brokenness of our world. And one day Christ “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4). 

Believe it or not, it is possible to experience joy during the holiday season, even as you grieve.

The Dwell Grief Ministry will offer a 10-week workshop called “Navigating your Grief” beginning  Wednesday, January 11th. This workshop is designed to encourage, educate, and equip individuals who are grieving the death of a loved one. For more information, email: