They say this is the most wonderful time of the year, but if you’ve lost someone you loved, you might find that the whole season takes on new meaning and perhaps a new kind of pain. As families gather together, there can be an increased focus on making memories and being together with loved ones, and those expectations can amplify your pain.


And this can be true whether or not you lost someone during the holiday season or whether or not the loss was recent. We’ve worked with so many families in our years of service to the wonderful people of El Cerrito, and we know they would agree that if this is your first holiday season without your beloved friend or family member, there are some things you will want to know:


You might need to hold some of your traditions loosely.

You could discover some of the things you used to take joy in during the holidays are simply too painful now because they’re too poignant a reminder of your loved one’s absence. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself or other members of your family to keep all of your traditions exactly the same. Remain flexible, and give yourself permission to skip some traditions or even start new ones.


You need to be patient with yourself.

Everyone’s grieving process looks different. Don’t compare your journey to others or even what you read about in grief resources. Allow yourself to feel the way you feel, even if it’s angry or sad. The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, but you’ve just suffered an incredible loss, and your life is not the same. Don’t expect yourself to feel happy just because of the expectations we place on the season. On the other hand, if you feel happiness or joy as you delight in the season, that is okay, too!


Be around people who lovingly support you.

The holidays can be a tough time, even under the best of circumstances. As families gather together, typical tensions and relationship dynamics come into play. If you choose not to participate in some family activities because they’re too painful, not everyone will understand that decision. Don’t assume the guilt they may try to put on you and seek out people who treat you with love and respect and give you the space you need to heal in the way that works for you.


Don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Even with a “normal” holiday, things can get stressful, with presents to buy, budgets to stretch, and parties to plan. With the added pressure and emotional strain of a recent loss, all of these stressors can be compounded. Here are some tips for holiday self-care:

  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Enjoy yourself, but eat healthy when you can – and don’t overindulge in sweets or alcohol.
  • Find the time for a little bit of exercise every day – even if it’s a walk around the block.


This advice might also be a good reminder to you, even if your loss was less recent. If you haven’t had a loved one pass away, but you know someone who has, we would encourage you to share this on social media – you never know whose life it might touch.


Regardless of what you’re facing, everyone here at Sunset View hopes that the promise of a new year will fill your hearts and homes this holiday season.