The signs of the holiday season are ubiquitous: holiday decorations in the stores, piped in Christmas carols, holiday displays at the malls, TV programs focusing on selecting the perfect gift, holiday parties and gift exchanges at work. In many cases, this bustle of activity contrasts markedly with the emptiness and despair of grief. As one grieving person expressed it, “I wanted to crawl into a hole and come out after the holidays had passed.” Drawing primarily from my conversations with the bereaved, I describe commonly experienced difficulties and ideas that may be useful in dealing with them.
Because of the difficulties inherent at this time of year, it is easy for mourners to feel that they are making little headway in dealing with their loss. Noel and Blair (2000) have suggested that mourners may be moving forward even when they are unaware of it. According to these authors, “Wherever you are in the grief process… We know it’s hard—and we also know it gets less hard. The next time a special occasion, anniversary or holiday comes around you will feel a little more in control, a little less pained, the situation will be a little less difficult and you will begin to celebrate life again—one day” (p. 102).
This article is written by Camille Wortman, Ph.D., and originally appeared on.