7 ways to cope with grief during the holidays


Holidays and other special occasions are often difficult when you are grieving for a loved one who has passed. You may have feelings of sadness and loneliness or a sense that it isn’t right to celebrate in their absence.

We asked Janet Quatman, LSW, our Bereavement Coordinator at Goshen Hospice, for her best tips to cope with emotions, confusion and difficult family experiences over the holidays.

Learn about support during times of grief.

Plan ahead – Decide what you want do and who you want to celebrate an occasion with. Anticipation of a celebration is often worse than the actual day, according to Janet. "Remember, you have the right to choose if or how you want to participate in a gathering. There are no set rules!"

Make your own decisions – Decide what activities are right for you. "You can choose not to celebrate a holiday if you feel it will be too painful," said Janet.

Do something different – You may decide to go out of town, stay at home or try a new activity. 

Be kind to yourself – The holidays can make you feel like you are on a roller coaster of emotions. "You have a right to cry in public, laugh and have fun without guilt or change your mind at any time," said Janet. "Don't be afraid of what others may think."

Share stories – Reminiscing about a loved one gives you a way to include them in your life. Take part in rituals that are meaningful to you, such as hanging favorite holiday decorations, lighting a candle or eating a favorite food your loved one enjoyed.

Do something for others – Volunteer at a local food bank. Donate to a charity that has meaning for you or your loved one. Or invite a guest who would otherwise be alone to share a holiday meal with you.

Get support through the grieving process – Support groups can help you cope with grief. "Emotional support, storytelling and discussion about ongoing grief experiences make a difference when you have lost someone,” said Janet. "We provide a safe and caring setting for people to share their experiences."

For more information on bereavement services, please call Goshen Hospice at (574) 364-2700.