It’s extremely challenging to think of celebrating the holidays when a loved one has died. The celebrations only seem to magnify grief. Bereavement Counselor, Janice McCarthy, MSW, LSW, has prepared a short video addressing the topic.

It’s important to have a plan. Jan discusses her plan further in her video.


The holidays will be different this year. A loved one is not with you. You are grieving. Holding onto expectations that this holiday season will be the same may leave you feeling disappointed. Relax your idea of what “should” be so that you can make a realistic plan to do what is comfortable for you. If you are the one who always prepared a large meal and you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of cooking, you may have to pass this responsibility to another family member this year. 


You have choices. Make a choice to do what is comfortable for you. If the idea of attending a big party makes you feel panicky or nervous, re-think it. It’s OK to want some alone time. Choose what traditions you would like to keep and what you might like to change. Choosing a remembrance of your loved one, whether through a toast or telling a story, is lovely way to honor a memory and acknowledge their absence.


Tell your friends and family how you feel, what you need, and what you want. They won’t know unless you tell them. Listen to what their thoughts are. You most likely have many of the same concerns as they do. There is usually more than one option and talking about your concerns will set the stage for compromise and planning. Communicate that being with everyone may make you emotional, you may cry and it’s OK if you do.


Be mindful of the energy both grieving and the holidays take. They are both hard work. Take care of yourself by being careful not to overbook yourself with activities. Make sure to get plenty of rest, drink lots of water and eat nutritious meals.


Creating a plan will reduce your anxiety. If Dad always carved the turkey, waiting until mealtime to see who will carve the turkey will create tension for everyone. Talking about it and planning prior to the day will make everyone feel more at ease. 


You will make it through the holidays this year. 

Even with the differences, you will find the experience bittersweet. There will be some happiness. Look for it. Trust that while this holiday season will be tinged with many emotions. You will be able to join in with the celebration more fully in the future. 

You will experience joyful holidays again