As the days grow colder and the holiday season approaches, many people may find themselves slipping into grief over lost loved ones. This time of year can bring what’s known as a "grief season" or "seasonal grief" where traditions and celebrations like birthdays, holidays and so forth can remind a grieving person of a deceased loved one.

This seasonal response could be expected if you are coping with loss, especially as you may be adjusting to living in a world without your loved one. Seasonal grief can span a range of unexpected emotions and even drain your energy during the holiday season. These experiences mean you’re not "resolving" your grief. Your experience is normal, and the idea of a "grief timeline" or expectation of how long and when to grieve is a myth.

There are ways to prepare and support yourself or a loved one who is experiencing grief during the holiday season.

Set boundaries. You may feel expected to attend family gatherings and holiday parties during this season. Before you go, you should assess your readiness for these types of events and do what’s right for you. Even if you RSVP to a fun event, you don’t have to stay the whole time, and it’s ok to forego other events. It’s important to find a balance between engaging in holiday events you enjoy without pushing yourself too far.

Be aware of your grief emotions. The holiday season may beckon a variety of positive and negative emotions while you’re grieving, and that's ok. Recognize your emotions and seek out a close friend or family member to develop your support system through the good and not-so-good times.

Honor old traditions and create new ones. Many families have holiday traditions that included a lost loved one and are now painful to remember, but continuing to celebrate older traditions can help you keep your loved one’s memory alive. You can also create new traditions to celebrate the holiday season, just as your loved one would want you to. Find ways to share hope and joy with others as you create new traditions during the holidays.

If you need more assistance, local nonprofit ARORA offers a variety of resources for those grieving a loss and helps connect community members to resources to help them manage their grief. Click here for information on free support groups and other resources.


Beth Cameron, CCLS, CT, CVM,  is the family aftercare manager for ARORA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring lives through the recovery of organs and tissues for transplant.