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Published on December 18, 2013

Sad girl eating bread at the table with a christmas tree in the background

Holiday Grief: When Your Loved One Won’t Be Home for Christmas

“I’ll be home for Christmas; you can plan on me…”

This popular song used to bring a warm, nostalgic feeling to my heart around this time of year, but now it brings tears. My family and I have grieved over these last few years, and the loss of a loved one feels especially raw around Christmas when I would give anything just to see, hear and touch that person again. Their spot at the table seems just as vacant as the spot in my heart.

If you are dealing with grief this holiday season, I, too, understand what grief feels like. If I could sit down with you over a cup of coffee, I would tell you I am so sorry for your heartache. Grief isn’t an easy thing to deal with during the holidays. Through personal experience, I’ve managed to find several ways to help make it through these difficult days with a little bit of healing and a little bit of hope.

Allow your loved one’s memory to be part of your new traditions.

  • Visit the gravesite to reminisce about past holidays shared with your loved one.
  • Hang an ornament on the tree in memory.
  • Write a note each year telling your loved one of how you miss him or her and about how life is now.
  • Talk about your loved one when you gather together with others.
  • Whatever you do, don’t ignore your grief, but embrace your loved one’s memory in your new traditions.

Be prepared for difficult times.

  • Understand that grief takes a physical, emotional and spiritual toll, so give yourself a break. Take a nap, enjoy a hot beverage, meet a friend, or take some time off work to ease the added stress. It’s going to be difficult; offer yourself a little TLC.
  • Take note of when irritability, sleeplessness, lack of motivation, or depression seems to linger, signifying an underlying state of sadness.

Know that you are not alone.

  • Grief can take on the image of loneliness all too soon, unless you learn to share the load. Find a neighbor, friend, family member or pastor who is willing to hear what is on your heart these days; be honest with him or her.
  • Join a grief support group.
  • Especially at Christmas, remember that a tiny baby came to bring light to our darkness, adequately named “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” He knew we’d need it.

And don’t be afraid to let those tears come. Your loved one and my loved one were worth it. From my heart to yours, may Christmas bring you healing and hope from your heartache this year.

If you feel that you are in a dark place and can’t get out, please call our free assessment line at 1-800-691-4336 to speak with a confidential counselor from Avera Behavioral Health.

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