Coping With Loss During the Holidays

Unhappy senior white man sitting alone during Christmas. Concept of solitude seniors.

Did you experience the loss of an older loved one this year? Grieving a loss is always difficult, but it is almost always harder during the winter holidays. It’s hard for those left behind—especially spouses—not to dwell on memories of the loved one from holidays past. And that is absolutely natural. The loss of a loved one can be particularly difficult to bear during times of celebration, as it can serve as a reminder of their absence and the changes that have occurred in one’s life.

It’s important to recognize that grief is a normal and natural response to loss, and that everyone experiences grief differently. Some people may feel overwhelmed with sadness, while others may feel numb or detached. Some people may find solace in engaging in activities that bring them joy or meaning, while others may find it helpful to reach out to friends and family for support.

There are many ways that older adults might cope with their grief after the loss of their spouse. Some common coping strategies include:

  • Finding ways to honor and remember their loved one. Many people find comfort in finding ways to honor and remember their loved one, such as by planning a memorial or visiting a special place that was meaningful to them. During the holidays, other ideas might include sharing favorite memories around the dinner table or keeping up the loved one’s favorite traditions.
  • Seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist. It can be helpful to have a supportive network of people—both family and friends or neighbors—to turn to during this difficult time. Seeing a therapist, even if just for a few visits, can help someone who’s grieving come to terms with the loss and feel stronger about facing the future.
  • Engaging in activities that bring meaning and purpose. Some survivors may find solace in engaging in activities that bring them joy or a sense of purpose, such as volunteering, pursuing a hobby, or attending religious services.
  • Practicing self-care. Taking care of oneself physically and emotionally can be important for coping with grief. This may involve getting enough rest, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in activities that bring relaxation and stress relief, such as meditation or exercise. If the surviving spouse was also a caregiver for their deceased loved one, self-care might feel strange—but it is likely very much needed.
  • Seeking out grief support groups. Joining a grief support group can be a helpful way to connect with others who are also grieving the loss of a spouse and to receive support and understanding from others who have had a similar experience. It might even lead to new friendships.

Remember, there’s no mandate saying we must be cheerful and happy when we’re grieving, even if it’s during the holidays. Everyone experiences grief differently, and there is no “right” way to cope with the loss of a spouse. What works for one person may not work for another, and it is important for all survivors to find what works best for them and to allow themselves to experience and express grief in a way that feels comfortable and authentic. At the holidays, it is also important to remember that grief is a process that takes time, and that holiday activities may cause setbacks in coping with loss. It is okay to take things one day at a time.

Categories: Mental Health