Linda Lewis Griffith

How to handle your grief over the holidays

The Kansas City Star/TNS

The holidays are meant to be festive and joyful. But if you’ve recently lost a loved one, you’re more likely to feel grief and despair. As Christmas day approaches, you may even wonder how you’re going to survive.

Although nothing can fill the void in your heart, there are ways you can get the support you need while honoring your loved one’s memory. Here’s how:

  • Don’t pretend that the holidays will be the same. Decide what you need and how you’ll celebrate. Others in your family will follow your lead.
  • Make social contacts. It’s OK to forgo formal festivities. But avoid being alone. Join in with people you love.
  • Skip holiday decorations this year. You’ll see enough wreaths and reindeer on your neighbors’ houses.
  • Visit your loved one’s gravesite or another contemplative spot. Savor quiet moments alone with your beloved. Consider leaving a poinsettia, a note or some other meaningful item.
  • Take good care of yourself. Get enough rest. Eat healthy meals. Avoid excessive alcohol.
  • Do something completely different. Host a pizza party. Go visit friends. Book a last-minute flight to Cancun. Give yourself plenty of permission to do what feels right.
  • Create a memory stocking or a memory box. Encourage family members to write memories about the deceased. Select a designated time to read the messages aloud.
  • Share your feelings. Let others know how you’re doing. If you cry, allow them to comfort you. They want to help in any way they can.
  • Make a shrine to honor your beloved. It can be as small as an end table with a few photos and mementos. Or it can be as large as a decorated tree in the backyard. Visit it whenever you feel sad.
  • Light a candle in your loved one’s name. Place it in an obvious location and reflect on his or her memory.
  • Hang an ornament on the tree in the deceased’s honor. Choose a traditional ornament that’s been in the family for years or a new, engraved item that marks an important milestone.
  • Serve one of your beloved’s favorite dishes for Christmas dinner. Perhaps you’ll follow a handwritten recipe or a favorite in a dog-eared cookbook.
  • Buy a gift you would have given to your loved one, then donate that gift to a local charity in his or her name.
  • Pick a few possessions that were special to the deceased. Gift them to friends and family members who would appreciate receiving them.
  • If you’ve had a hard time parting with your beloved’s personal items, give some of them to a local homeless shelter.
  • Do something to help others. Volunteer at the local food bank. Serve meals to the homeless. Visit shut-ins at an Alzheimer’s facility.
  • Attend a grief counseling session. You’ll be surrounded by caring people who understand exactly what you’re going through.
  • Understand that next year will be better. Grief doesn’t magically disappear in 12 months. But time is your ally. Hang in there.

Linda Lewis Griffith’s column in special to The Tribune. She is a local marriage and family therapist. For information, visit