A List of Ideas to Heal Your Holiday Grief

Author: Alan Wolfelt

Grief expert and TAPS Advisory Board member Dr. Alan Wolfelt offers a list of practical ideas that can help us heal our holiday grief.

Stockings hung on fire mantle

  • Be Compassionate with Yourself

    Let your holiday grief be what it is. And let yourself—your new, grieving self—be who you are. 

  • Survive

    If the death was very recent, you may be in survival mode this holiday season. If that’s true for you, it’s OK—the world will keep turning whether you participate in the holidays or not. 

  • Keep What Matters

    You might consider simplifying your holiday rituals instead of abandoning them altogether. Keep the traditions that matter most to you and set the others aside, at least for now. 

  • Communicate Your Wishes

    Muster the strength and courage to tell the people in your life what your wishes are for the holidays. If you’d like their company but prefer to gather somewhere different than you usually do, say so. If you’d rather skip some of the celebrations this year, tell them. If you’re feeling unsure about how to spend the holidays, tell them. 

  • Attend a Remembrance Ceremony

    Many hospitals, hospices and funeral homes host remembrance ceremonies during the holidays. The act of joining together in our grief and ritualizing our mourning can be very healing. Especially early in their grief, many families say it was the most important thing they did during the holidays. 

  • Hang a Special Stocking

    If your holiday traditions include hanging stockings, consider hanging a special stocking in memory of the person who died. 

  • Be a Secret Santa

    You could probably use some “feeling good” this holiday season. Give yourself a dose of pleasure by giving to someone else. 

  • Prepare Favorite Holiday Foods of the Person Who Died

    Special foods are an important part of the holiday traditions. Chances are your  family prepares many of the same dishes each holiday, and everyone looks forward to those unique smells and flavors. 

  • If You’re Alone, Find Ways to Connect

    If you’re alone this holiday season, you need to make an effort to connect with other human beings. Invite your neighbor to dinner. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or nursing home. Join a group at a place of worship. 

  • Make an Appointment with a Grief Counselor

    Seeing a counselor or spiritual advisor for just a session or two over the holidays may help you cope better and focus more on what is important to you this year and what is not. 

  • Count Your Blessings

    Think of all you have to be thankful for. This is not to deny the hurt, for the hurt needs to take precedence right now. But it may help to consider the things that make your life worth living, too. 

  • Believe in a Better Next Year

    Believe in a better next year. Believe in your capacity to heal and grow through grief. Believe in the enduring holiday spirit of giving and love.


From the pen of…
Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., is the founder and director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition and a member of the TAPS Advisory Board. This article is excerpted from his book "Healing your Holiday Grief: 100 Practical Ideas for Blending Mourning and Celebration During the Holiday Season," published by Companion Press and available at centerforloss.com