3 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays While Grieving December 22, 2021

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Thinking of ways to celebrate the holidays while grieving isn’t a topic anyone wants to think about. But grief can seem heavier during the holidays, no matter if your loved one passed recently or many years ago. Missing our loved ones at the holidays is especially painful because we often think of holidays as special because they are spent with the people we love. When someone we love dies, that loss can feel infinitely bigger on holidays and special occasions. 

The death of a loved one can rob our lives of joy. Holidays can make that pain feel even deeper, and we often need more support from friends and family during the holidays for that reason. But it can also be harder to reach out for help during this time of year. We often don’t want to impose on others, who might be busy with their own families. We might not want to cast a shadow over the memories they’re creating with their families and friends, and we might worry that we’ll be a “downer” and not fun to spend time with because we are sad. 

Ways to Celebrate the Holidays While Grieving

While there’s no one way to help someone who grieves during the holidays, there are some things we can suggest that might help you feel a little less lonely. These suggestions aren’t meant to be a substitution for time with family and friends, nor are they meant to minimize the very real grief you’re feeling. They’re simply things we think might help when things seem bleak. As always, please reach out when you’re feeling especially low. There are online sources, hotlines, and even online resources ready to respond as soon as you take the first step. 

Take Comfort in the Words of Others

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Grief has been the subject of countless books, poetry collections, songs, and movies. Often these things can say or express things in a way we can’t articulate, even though we feel them very deeply. 

Sometimes getting lost in a book can help us pass the day without thinking about how much we miss our loved one. The same can be true of going to a movie, where you’re required to turn off your phone and focus only on the screen.

While reading is a solitary activity, if you’re a social person you could create a grief book club. Reading a book with others who are also experiencing grief, then talking about the book, can be a way to express your feelings to people who understand what it’s like to miss someone at the holidays. Watching a movie about grief can help us as well. 

You could do the same with movies, simply by inviting a friend or two to join you at the theater. Often when we’re grieving, we isolate ourselves. But finding community and being with others can help with our grief, even if we just enjoy an experience together like watching a movie. 

Post Quotes That Help With Grief

You’ve probably read about movers and shakers who post motivational quotes on their mirrors and repeat them every morning while they get ready for the day. This idea is similar, but with a very real difference: quotes about grief aren’t meant to help us achieve more. They’re meant to remind us that we’re not alone. That’s especially true when it comes to quotes about grief and the holidays, when it seems we might be the only person in the world who isn’t happy right now. 

Here are a few that might help you:


“Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.”

~ Sarah Dessen

“Ain’t no shame in holding onto grief… as long as you make room for other things too.”

~ “Bubbles,” The Wire


“Grief is like the ocean; It comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”

~ Vicki Harrison


“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”

~ Kahlil Gibran


“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul, there is no separation.”

~ Rumi


“I wasn’t prepared for the fact that grief is so unpredictable. It wasn’t just sadness, and it wasn’t linear. Somehow, I’d thought that the first days would be the worst and then it would steadily better, like getting over the flu. That’s now how it was.”

~ Meghan O’Rourke


“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process. It needs not a map but a history…”

~ C.S. Lewis


​​“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; But still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

Create New Traditions

Part of what often makes grief even heavier during the holidays is that the traditions we’ve held dear have changed drastically since our loved one passed. While we cannot replace those, we can create new traditions that can help. 

Consider, perhaps, lighting a special candle while sharing a memory of your loved one. Or post a special social media message about them on their favorite holiday or birthday. You could keep their memory alive by chatting with others about them, or by sharing funny stories or memories at dinners and gatherings. You might also consider doing something that reflects what was important to them while they were alive. For instance, you might volunteer at their favorite charity, plant a new rosebush or flower if they were a gardener, or make their favorite meal to share with others. 

Most of all, we hope that you give yourself grace during this hardest time of year. Grieving isn’t linear; it can be unpredictable and unforgiving at times. Realize that you are doing the best you can, and that sometimes we all need an extra shoulder to lean on. Help is available when you need it.