Coping with loss this holiday season

By Lin Sue Cooney
Director of Community Engagement, Hospice of the Valley

The holidays can be challenging for anyone—but that’s especially true if you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Sadness can magnify the stress of the season. Instead of excitement and joy, you may be feeling a little empty and lost. It seems impossible to carry on with old traditions as if nothing has changed, because the truth is your whole world has changed.

The pandemic is likely to intensify feelings of loss as families suspend traditional big gatherings to keep the virus from spreading. Grief experts like Ellen S. Zinner say it’s never easy to face festivities with an aching heart, but there are ways to survive the holidays in times of great sorrow.

Take it easy

When you are grieving, give up perfection and let some things go. Ask others to help you—chances are they will love being able to comfort and support you.

Say no

Avoid things that increase your stress—shopping, cooking, decorating, planning. This year, just say, “No, thank you.”

Make yourself a priority

Decide what you really want to do this year—and forget what others think you “should” be doing. Skip the parties if you’d rather stay home. You are in charge of what gets your attention and energy.

Practice self-care

Get enough sleep. Moderate alcohol intake. Learn relaxation techniques. Exercise—it chases away depression.

Be kind to yourself

Show yourself the same tenderness you would give a friend who is grieving someone’s death. Be patient and understand that grieving is an ebb and flow and takes as long as it takes.

Honor and acknowledge

You will never forget your loved one. During this first holiday without him or her, find a way to honor or acknowledge the beautiful memories you will always treasure.

Hospice of the Valley has many more helpful “holiday survivorship skills” to share in our free booklet, “Coping with Grief During the Holidays.” Request a copy by emailing

Learn to manage the challenges of the holiday season in a healthy way by joining our Zoom presentation, “Mindfulness Practices for Easing the Stress of the Season,” 10 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, December 10. The Zoom link is

Meeting ID: 928 9630 0757

Passcode: 406925

Cost: Free