The Opposite of “Happy Holidays”

How to Thoughtfully Cope with Grief and Gatherings

If you are facing the holidays in a way you’ve never faced them before, the word “HAPPY” may feel like it’s just everywhere, haunting and stinging you.

Grieving through the holidays is so very hard. You can’t avoid the days or the reality no matter how much you want to, it just has to be done. But, there are ways you can intentionally prepare yourself and thoughtfully move through the gatherings and expectations.

Here are a few ideas on how to cope and prepare for the holidays when someone you love will not be there:
  1. Have a photo (or many photos) of them out, somewhere prominently in your home. Light a candle by their photo each evening. Being able to see them obviously brings them to your mind and having a candle to light is a simple but ceremonial act of care that brings in both light, beauty and warmth into the room.
  2. Maybe don’t do the empty chair … I read recently about a widower’s first Thanksgiving without his wife and the empty chair he set out for her at their table. The pain and shock of that vacant space was too much for him to take. It’s one of those times where even with planning and thoughtfulness, the grief still overcame. That could happen to you – and that’s grief – and that’s ok. But sometimes these more grand ceremonial gestures can awaken more than we are comfortable with. Consider your limits as you think about ways to honor your loved one.
  3. Talk about your loved one with a disclaimer. If you’re at a gathering, people may be afraid to talk about your loved one in front of you. You may need to help them. You could say something like this, “I am finding that it helps me to talk about my loved one with our friends.” or “It feels so much better to say their name and talk about them than to pretend they didn’t exist. It’s nice to talk about them with you.”
  4. Think, anticipate, and feel it out. Deeply thinking and anticipating what is to come can be profoundly grounding. Talking with a close friend about your concerns or journaling about what you’re dreading are effective ways to give space and air to what is unsaid. When we bring our deepest fears to light, we can feel the support from our friend, or the courage to face the moment.
You will not do this perfectly. It will be hard. You will miss them so much.

No one knows what you are feeling better than you do. So, take this blog with that in mind. What I do know is you will not regret making the effort to do this well. You may even find that you are able to manage the holidays better than you thought you might.

You have never done this before, and chances are, your friends and family haven’t either. Take off the pressure, try, be open, and close off when you need to. Awareness will be key for you as you deal with the ever-present awareness that your loved one is gone.

Our hearts go out to you – the special ones grieving this holiday season. We wish it wasn’t this way. If you are looking for a way to grieve and honor your loved one this holiday season, we hope you’ll consider attending our Candlelight Service of Remembrance.

Wishing all of you a meaningful and special holiday season.

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Molly grew up in and around funeral homes her entire life. In 2009 she began working for O'Connor Mortuary and found a bridge between her passion for writing and her interest in grief and bereavement. In 2016 she earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. She is honored to be able to write about these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *