Holiday Season Without Them

big dates coping with grief grief grief & body grief resources

We often think that we can ignore the crushing emptiness at the thought of the holiday season without our person. Trying to squash this into the most far away corner of our minds can be just as stressful to our bodies and minds as the holiday season itself.

Here are some ideas to support you in carrying the elephant in the room this Christmas:

Take a moment - or ten

Pause, breathe and ask yourself what would feel most right to you to honour them. This might be a walk for some time with your thoughts, sitting with a hot cuppa, or writing down ideas as they come to you.

Acknowledge the elephant

Ask those who you’ll be spending Christmas and the holidays with if there are any ways they’d like to honour, and acknowledge the absence of, your person, especially if they had a close connection with them too. These can be tough, awkward conversations, so choose your timing wisely. But you won’t regret it.

How to honour them?

You might:

  • Plan a ritual
  • Set aside time to share memories with others who were close to them
  • Light a candle in their honour
  • Hold a moment of silence
  • Play their favourite music
  • Set their place at the table to remember their presence (I’ve seen others suggest this - it’s too painful for me, but if it works for you, have at it.)
  • Eat the meal they always requested for special occasions
  • Spend time in a place that is meaningful to you
  • Contribute in some way to something they cared about


Maybe you commit to a short body-oriented practice to support your (likely already frazzled) nervous system leading up to and during the holiday season, a treat to yourself. This might be walking, functional movements, yoga, or breathing patterns.


Ask yourself honestly, and with curiosity, what support you need over the coming weeks? Consider all aspects from emotional, mental and spiritual, to relational, logistical and physical. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the work, family, and social balls in the air. You might pick 1-3 things that you can do to support yourself, and/or to ask for support from others.

Expectations, Boundaries & Compassion

As well as grieving their death, Christmas can bring up a secondary grief, where you grieve these lost opportunities for more time and memory-making with your person. This is important to acknowledge, and three years on this advice is as much for myself as it is for you.

  • What would it be like to let go of what others expect from you (and what you tend to expect from yourself) and instead to operate from your own playbook?
  • Would it be helpful to set boundaries for yourself and others around your time, energy and commitments?

When it all gets too much, think about what you might say to your best friend if they were in your situation. And when it’s all over be sure to give yourself a pat on the back for making it through.

Do You

Maybe you’ve found your own ways to make it through. Maybe you don’t want to do anything at all. That is valid too. Just staying afloat in grief is a win, so if you’ve found what works for you then carry on with that my friend.

Whatever happens this holiday season, know that I’m with you too in continuing learning how to navigate these traditionally family/friend-focused occasions with those missing pieces.

x, Hannah

Want more?

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