Grief and Bereavement

Tips for Supporting Adults During the Holiday Season

Holidays that are typically times of celebration can be very difficult for a grieving family. The empty space left by someone who has died may feel bigger and deeper. Common greetings such as “Happy Holidays” can feel painful. Many families find the first year or two after the death to be particularly difficult.

Here are a few tips for supporting someone during the holidays.

Remember, the Holidays Don’t Have to be Perfect
People commonly feel they have to put on a brave face and do everything perfectly to protect themselves from grief and sadness during the holidays. It doesn’t work. No matter how tender your turkey turns out or how elegantly you set your holiday table, someone is missing and this devastating reality is a constant. Go easy on yourself and accept that things won’t be perfect this year.

Observe Traditions with Flexibility
There is no right or wrong way of handling the holidays. Some people choose to honor time old traditions and some people choose to break them. Both are okay. Tradition can provide a sense of comfort and security, but it can also make your loved one’s absence even more glaring. Sometimes making small changes such as opening presents on the evening of Dec. 24th or having dinner at a different place can be helpful. Make a plan for how you want to spend the holidays and what traditions you want to keep or change and let other know ahead of time.

Practice saying “No”
If you are someone who feels they have to say yes to every invitation, you may want to try and say ‘no’ a little more in the next few weeks. Avoiding isolating yourself too much and prioritize the most important commitments and resist the temptation to ‘stay busy’ and push your grief aside.

Have an ‘Escape Plan’ When You Do Attend Events
Sometimes you don’t know how you’ll react until you get there. It can be helpful to have a plan to leave early if you need to. Drive yourself to events or go with a friend who doesn’t mind taking you home if you need a quick getaway

Schedule some “Me” Time
In addition to saying ‘no’ more often, invest some of your time in your own well-being. Incorporate coping activities into your weekly calendar and plan for moments to reflect and grieve. You are important.

Ask for Help
Just because you’ve done it all in the past doesn’t mean you have to do so this year. Ask someone else to host the holiday gathering. Or ask family and friends to bring dinner items or help with the cooking. Invite friends over to help decorate. Grieving is hard work, especially over the holidays, so now is the time to ask for some help.

Talk about Your Grief
Don’t be afraid to express your feelings. Ignoring your grief won’t make the pain go away and talking about it openly will often make you feel better. Find caring friends and relatives who will listen – without judging you and without giving you unwanted advice.

Allow Yourself to Experience Moments of Comfort and Joy
Laughter and joy are not disrespectful. Give yourself and your family permission to celebrate and take pleasure in the holidays.

Talk About the Person Who Died
Include your loved one’s name in your holiday conversations and find ways to incorporate their memory into your holiday gatherings. If you can talk candidly, other people will recognize your need to remember your special person and help you to remain connected with them.

Seek Out Help if You Need It
While you may feel better when you talk to friends and family members, it sometimes helps to talk to an outside person. The Central Okanagan Hospice Association offers diverse services for adults who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Please click here to learn more.

If you need extra support this holiday season, please contact Ian Kunitski, Director of Programs and Services at 250.763.5511 or email

Help Make a Difference

There are many ways to get involved to help the dying, grieving and their loved ones in the Central Okanagan.