Love and Grief: A Grievers Guide to Holidays and Special Occasions

It’s normal for holidays and special occasions like birthdays to bring up feelings of love and grief after a loss. Whether you are in the throes of deep grief or starting to come out of the dark cloud, a holiday or group celebration can accentuate the loss you are experiencing and bring about intense emotions. This experience is so normal and common that it’s to be expected. And, if you can expect these moments, you can prepare for them. Please keep reading for more on love and grief and how to handle holidays and special occasions. 

How are Love and Grief Related?

Grief is a type of love. Grief is the response to not knowing how to love someone who is gone. When someone you love leaves you, whether through death or their own accord, and there is no chance of a reunion---the response is grief. Grief is love filled with rage, bitterness, and resentment at a terrible loss. The level of grief experienced is often directly related to how much love you have for the person who passed. We as humans are deeply hardwired to connect to others. And when someone we love is taken from us, the loss is felt so deeply on so many levels that it is a truly devastating experience. This is especially true for people who shared day-to-day life with someone or had regular contact with them. When you lose someone who was part of the fabric of your regular life, someone who you love, it rips your life apart. This is a testament to the power of love and human connection, and while terrible, it is a uniting experience for all of us. 

How to Celebrate Holidays and Special Occasions While in Grief

While it may be painful and challenging to prepare for a holiday without your loved one, it’s a standard recommendation from therapists and grief experts. Being intentional will give you the space to experience whatever you experience and help you avoid circumstances that could be extra triggering. Here are some tips for handling holidays and special occasions while grieving. Take them all with a grain of salt—these aren’t hard and fast rules but recommendations and suggestions. 

  1. Get your tools ready. However you’ve been processing your grief, make sure you do those things on the holiday or special occasion. For example, maybe coloring, talking to your close friend, spending time with your dog, exercising, or meditation have been helping you process your grief—plan on doing some of those things on the day of the holiday or special occasion.

  2. Be intentional about who you see. Being with safe, loving friends and family could be what you need on a difficult day. But if there are people in your life that you don’t want to (or can’t) be around when you’re vulnerable (which you may be), decide to avoid them on these days.

  3. Make plans, but be ok with staying in. Making plans is encouraged; it gives structure to your day. And being with people is often the perfect antidote to lonely ruminations. And, if you don’t want to go out when the time comes, it’s ok to cancel and stay in.

  4. Treat yourself to a delicious meal. Consider ordering delivery or cooking. Restaurants can be triggering, especially if you lost a spouse or romantic partner. Or, you may want to be at your favorite restaurant; make plans with friends or family to join you for a celebration.

  5. Set aside time to remember your lost beloved. Whether you take a few minutes of silence, look at photos, or light a candle, intentionally remembering your departed loved one can be healing and helpful.

  6. Do something to remember your loved one at the celebration. If there is a group gathering, cook your loved one’s favorite food or play their favorite music. There’s also an opportunity for a group ritual….from five minutes of silence to sharing stories for hours.

  7. Another option is to pretend the holiday or special occasion isn’t happening. While plans are good if you suddenly want to be around people, a day or evening at home can be very soothing. You could indulge in snacks and movies or be intentional with self-care activities like journaling.

  8. Try meditation for its soothing powers and ability to help you cultivate awareness and compassion. Meditation can be short or long and fits into any day’s plans. It might be the extra support you need to get through a potentially tricky day.

Sharing photos or videos of past holidays with your loved one on their Ecorial memorial page is a loving way to remember them and share those memories with others who loved them. Ecorial’s online Memory Map allows you to mark your loved one’s resting place and invite friends, family, and colleagues to share their care and memories. Ecorial helps families honor a loved one while they rest in nature.
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