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Snow Portrait

How the Grief Stole Christmas

Coping with Grief at the Holidays

Santa and Boy

Grief during the holidays

Halloween, Día de los Muertos, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Las Posadas, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year's, the Epiphany: this time of year is rich in tradition. Holidays and holy days - a time to celebrate long-standing family traditions and create new ones. But for families who have lost a loved one, the most 'wonderful time of the year' can also be the most 'difficult time of the year'.

We can be going along and everything seems to be okay. Then, out of nowhere, grief hits full force. This is all part of the natural grieving experience. Grief is the universal, human response to loss—all too familiar in this year of unprecedented loss, when we are dealing with death, separation, isolation, and loss due to COVID-19 layered on top of existing losses.

The holidays are especially hard for children, confusing too, as the holidays can be both happy and sad after a death. It's okay to enjoy the holiday and it's okay to be sad. Let children know they don’t need to feel guilty about being happy. Ask them to let you know if they start to feel sad. Make a special code word they can use if they need a break or some space.


NAGC Holiday Toolkit: Supporting Grieving Children During the Season of Family

During this time of year, regardless of which holidays we celebrate, what faith or culture we honor, there is an emphasis on family – a heightened awareness of the importance of family while we gather and celebrate. The reverse is also true, there is a heightened awareness of those missing, those not at the table or at the special gathering.

This holiday toolkit offers ideas and inspiration for families to celebrate loved ones, those present and those who have died.

With special thanks to the National Alliance for Grieving Children

Grief during the holidays – how you can help

When someone you care about is grieving, it can be difficult to know what to say or do. It’s hard, and it’s OK if you don’t know how to do this. No one does. Don’t let discomfort prevent you from reaching out. This is awkward for them, too.

It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. Reach out anyway.

Now, more than ever, your loved one needs your support. You don’t need to have any answers or give any advice. Your goal is NOT to make things better; it’s to support them in their pain. The most important thing you can do is to simply reach out. Show up. Just be there. That might be the greatest gift you can give this holiday season.

It’s OK if you don’t know how to do this. No one does.




25 helpful suggestions from

Christmas Presents
  1. Acknowledge that the holidays will be different and they will be tough. Find ways to keep your loved one’s memory alive during the holiday season.

  2. Decide which traditions you want to keep – the tradition/activity is special even if it’s not perfect or ‘the same’.

  3. Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one.

  4. Remember that not everyone will be grieving the same way you are grieving.

  5. Decide where you want to spend the holidays, and what you want to do – you may want to switch up the location, or it may be of comfort to keep it the same.

  6. Put out a ‘memory stocking’ or ‘memory box’ where you and others can write down memories you treasure. Pick a time to read them together.

  7. Light a candle in your home in memory of the person you’ve lost.

  8. Include one of your loved one’s favorite dishes in your holiday meal.

  9. Be honest. Tell people what you DO want to do for the holidays and what you DON’T want to do. Listen to yourself, trust yourself, communicate with your family, and do what works for you.

  10. Make a donation to a charity that was important to your loved one in their name.

  11. Buy a gift you would have given to your loved one and donate it to a local charity.

  12. See a counselor or go to a grief group.  Maybe you’ve been putting it off. The holidays are especially tough, so this may be the time to talk to someone.

  13. Pick a few special items that belonged to your loved one and gift them to friends or family who will appreciate them.

  14. Support kids by doing a memorial grief activity together. Make a memorial ornament, wreath, or other decoration in honor of their special person.

  15. Visit your loved one’s gravesite and leave a grave blanket, wreath, poinsettia, or another meaningful holiday item.

  16. Play your loved one’s favorite holiday music. If your loved one hated holiday music, play whatever music they loved.

  17. Put out a photo table with photos of your loved one at holiday celebrations in the past. Pull out old photo albums and spend some time looking at photos.

  18. Talk to kids about the holidays – it can be confusing for kids that the holidays can be both happy and sad after a death.  Let them know it’s okay to enjoy the holiday, and it’s okay to be sad.

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