Grief and the Holidays: 15 Ways to Cope

With the holidays approaching, Ecumen knows that those who have lost a loved one will be facing changes and, inevitably, grief. Read this post for 15 ways to cope with grief through the holidays.

“If your life has changed, then certainly your holidays will change,” said Chris Quistad, Ecumen’s Director of Spiritual Care. “Although there is no avoiding the holidays, there are ways to cope with both the grief that change brings and the stress that the holidays bring,” she added.

With the holidays approaching, Ecumen knows that those who have lost a loved one will be facing changes and, inevitably, grief. Below are 15 ways to cope with grief through the holidays, courtesy of Quistad.

  1. 1.    Realize this year will be different. Don’t compare this holiday with the nostalgia of past holidays. You may not feel the normal joy of the season or have the energy to bake, shop, send cards, cook or decorate. There may be family tension or conflicting expectations. Acknowledge that the holidays may not be the same as those in the past.
  2. 2.    Expect emotions to intensify. Accept the likelihood that the holidays may be painful.
  3. 3.    Plan ahead. Pace yourself. Set realistic limits and lower expectations. Be willing to cut back on activities. It is okay to say “no” to things like sending cards, decorating and buying gifts.
  4. 4.    Be flexible and patient with yourself and others.
  5. 5.    Tell others what you need. Others may not know how to help you and need to be told. Communicate your needs.
  6. 6.    Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel.
  7. 7.    Remember your physical needs. Don't abandon healthy habits like exercising, eating right and getting plenty of sleep.
  8. 8.    Make new holiday rituals. When you do things differently, it tells others that your life is different. Light a candle, walk, pray, or do whatever feels right for YOU.
  9. 9.    Honor traditions. Let family know what traditions are meaningful for you and which are painful. It is okay to let some traditions go.
  10. 10.  Take 5 minute “mini mental breaks.” Sit down, practice deep breathing and simply close your eyes. Alternatively, go for a walk, listen to music or meditate.
  11. 11.  Stay involved. Meet together as a family and share what each needs to make these holidays special and be willing to change the normal routine.
  12. 12.  Lean on your faith for strength. Touch base with your spirituality, which can bring comfort, strength, peace and wisdom. Explore what gives your own life meaning.
  13. 13.  Remember to remember. Celebrate the memory of your loved one in a way that helps you cope.
  14. 14.  Find moments of joy. Remember that your loved one would want nothing but your happiness over the holidays. Don't feel guilty to laugh, joke or find joy in the simple things in life.
  15. 15.  Do what is right for YOU. At the end of the day, everyone grieves differently and has different coping needs. Use these tips to find your healthy way to cope. 

Download our Ecumen Hospice Tip Sheet for Coping With Grief through the Holidays by clicking the image below. 

To find additional tips and resources for coping with grief in your area, visit:


About Ecumen Hospice

Ecumen Hospice, one of Minnesota’s first hospice programs, has a strong heritage of helping individuals with life-limiting illnesses live each day to the fullest. Our dedicated hospice team provides high quality personalized services including skilled nursing care, spiritual care, bereavement counseling, music and massage therapy, social work, physician services and volunteer companionship care in the Minneapolis/St. Paul and Litchfield areas. Ecumen, founded more than 150 years ago, is a trusted name in senior housing, home care and skilled care.  For more information on Ecumen Hospice go to our website or call               651-714-0200 in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area or 320-693-7367 in Litchfield. For more information on Ecumen, go to