Kelly Flannigan Bos: The Relationship Rescuer


Grief Relief: Getting Through Holidays When You're Hurting

When Christmas is Complicated

Christmas is...?

For some, the answers might be about family time, celebration, religious occasion, weather, hope, a time of giving... the list goes on...

But for many a more complicated answer might form. A time of loss, regret, pain and perhaps just survival.

I have dear friends who have a child with serious medical issues in the hospital. For them, this year will be about surviving the holidays. For many Christmas is complicated. This can be true of any religious, culturally, or familial event as celebrations are a time when families come together and holidays gone by are reflected upon.

The empty chair stands out.

The loss or change of tradition is marked.

It can be a time of significant grief, loss and remembrance. These times can also be a confusing for children who are processing loss.

If you and/or your family is dealing with grief this season...

  • Be patient with yourself and family members, grief symptoms might be increased during the holidays and this can make an already chaotic season additionally stressful. Recognize this, pace yourself, be understanding and put boundaries in where you need them.  Please read yesterday's touching post by Andrea sharing how she gave herself permission to not do Christmas after the loss of her mom

  • Know that it is okay to enjoy the holidays. Sometimes it can feel wrong to enjoy yourself after experiencing a loss. Your loved one would want you to be happy so embrace the good feelings when they come.

  • Keep traditions that make you feel good and skip those that don't. Some tradition can be helpful for children, as they respond well to consistency, predictability and routine. Talk with family members including your children about what would be comforting and important to do this year.

  • Do something new this year. If doing the usual celebration is too much, find something that does feel good or significant.

  • Accept help and ask for what you need. Often people feel frozen with not knowing how to help a grieving friend and would welcome an opportunity to make you a meal, be a listening ear, or run an errand for you.

  • Share your thoughts, feelings and memories with friends, family or a therapist. This can also be through a letter, or perhaps a drawing for kids. Encourage an atmosphere of openness for your family to talk about those who have passed.

  • Acceptance is a part of the grieving process. Try not to work on forgetting your loved one but rather do things that support healthy and happy remembering.


Whatever your challenge is know that you are not alone, many find the holidays challenging after a loss. There are often friends and family that want to stand by you this season, seek them out. If you have few connections or nothing easily available to you due to distance or circumstances, or you are finding coping has become difficult, seek out some professional advice and assistance through a grief support group (offered by hospitals, community agencies and religious organizations), support line, or talk to a therapist. Support is available.