Managing grief during the holiday season

Managing grief during the holiday season

Nov 28 2023

If you’re experiencing grief, the holidays can be a tough time of year.

By: Becky Moorehead, LMSW

Holidays are often a time for celebration and time spent with loved ones; however, for those struggling with grief, this time of year can be difficult. This is especially true if it is the first holiday season since a loss.

Grief is a natural response to the loss of someone or something.  Each person’s grieving process is unique and there is no “one size fits all” solution or destination. That said, there are a variety of tips on how to cope with grief during the holidays and ways to support your loved ones who may be experiencing grief.

Coping with grief during the holidays

If you are experiencing grief this holiday season, these coping strategies and tips may help.

  • Set healthy boundaries. It is okay to not attend every celebration, and to say “no.”
  • Know that it is okay to ask for what you need.
  • Spend time with supportive people.
  • Be patient with yourself. The grieving process is different for everyone with many ups and downs. Sometimes it comes in waves.
  • Recognize that everyone deals with grief differently and has different needs.
  • Plan ahead for things like how much time you plan to spend at a gathering, your exit strategy, etc.
  • Allow yourself to feel all emotions without internal judgment.
  • Honor memories you have with your loved one.
  • Create a new tradition.
  • Identify coping skills that work for you to have “on hand” such as deep breathing, taking a walk, etc. Implement them when a time comes where they are needed.
  • Do something for others.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help if needed.

How to help loved ones who are grieving

If you have a loved one who is experiencing grief, you’re likely wondering how you can help. Use these tips to support your loved one as best you can.

  • Be with the person and acknowledge their loss.
  • Understand you can’t take the pain away from them.
  • Verbally acknowledge the deceased. This allows permission to express emotions and keep the memories alive.
  • Don’t assume you know how the grieving person feels, and don’t attempt to shorten their grieving process.
  • Know what your role is – someone who listens, someone who helps with tasks, or someone who helps to provide distractions.
  • Don’t attempt to shorten their grieving process, be patient. The grieving process can take time and have many ups and downs.
  • If you feel the need to take “action” bring soothing items without prompting – like their favorite meal, a shared favorite book or artwork, or a keepsake.

When to seek professional help

Dealing with grief is incredibly difficult, and professional help may be required to help with the coping and healing processes. If you or a loved one are experiencing one or more of the following, you should consult a mental health professional:

  • Difficulty keeping a normal routine
  • Feelings of depression
  • Feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Thoughts of harming yourself

Resources available to help

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, receive immediate help by:

  • Calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988
  • Texting the Crisis Text Line: 741741

Other resources may be available to you through your community or health plan.  For example, Priority Health members have access to these resources for mental wellness:

  • 24/7 Priority Health Support Line: Priority health has an on-staff behavioral health team that is available 24/7, that can be reached from the telephone number on the back of members’ ID cards or by logging into their member center.
  • myStrength tool: Self-care and coping skills are critical to your mental health and wellbeing.  Members can sign up for a free myStrength account that includes interactive activities, coping tools and other resources, including information on processing grief at
  • Behavioral health virtual care: Behavioral Health virtual care is also available with the same copay as an office visit, allowing members to receive treatment from the comfort and safety of their own home.

About the author:  Becky Moorehead, LMSW, is a Clinical Program Specialist in the Behavioral Health Department and certified health and wellness coach at Priority Health.  She leads all operations and oversight of the myStrength program, Priority Health’s digital solution supporting the emotional health of our members.  Becky also leads and supports various clinical initiatives within the organization to promote access to mental health services.  Her clinical expertise and passion promote mental health awareness and access while stomping out the stigma associated with seeking essential healthcare. 

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