Holiday Survival Tips: Practical Advice to Help Anyone Coping with Grief

Author: TAPS

Holiday cheer and merrymaking can be everywhere this time of year, but for those grieving the loss of a loved one, the holiday season can be filled with emotional twists and turns.

Holiday Lights

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) would like to offer the following tips to help those who are grieving the death of a loved one this holiday season:

  • Make plans. Holiday anticipations can often be worse than the holiday itself. Take charge of your holiday plans, and map out how you will spend your time. This can help relieve anxiety. 
  • Choose your company wisely. Try to spend time with the people in your life who are most nurturing. While you cannot always manage to remove yourself from people that may cause you anxiety, taking breaks, making sure your mind is clear and having an exit plan can help.
  • Seek spiritual comfort.  Your church, synagogue, mosque or other faith community may provide special comfort during this time of year.
  • Find peer support. You may want to look for a support group for people who are grieving and have suffered a similar loss. Families who have lost a loved one serving in the military may find comfort by connecting with other survivors through the TAPS online community, peer support groups, peer mentoring or care groups.
  • Honor your loved one. Light a candle, include your loved one in a toast and share memories, cook a favorite recipe or even volunteer or make a charitable contribution in his or her honor.
  • Be patient with yourself. You might think you will be fine, but a flood of memories may come. It's okay to cry and change your plans if need be. Accept that this holiday season may be different and that it's okay.
  • Focus on your health. Make sure to get plenty of rest, eat regularly and drink plenty of water.Don't look for quick fixes like sweets or alcohol as they can make you feel worse in the long run.
  • Ask for help. Maybe you can find someone to help with cooking, shopping or wrapping holiday gifts.
  • Engage in acts of service.  Oftentimes looking outside of our home for opportunities to volunteer can be just what we need during the holidays. Local retirement homes are always looking for volunteers during the holiday season. Being there for someone else at the holidays and listening can be a gift for that person and you.

For more tips on dealing with grief during the holidays, look for TAPS articles on holidays. For more help with coping with military loss, pick up a copy of Healing Your Grieving Military Heart by Bonnie Carroll and Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt. The book is available by emailing or calling 800.959.TAPS (8277).