Dealing with Loss during the Holidays

Dealing with Loss during the Holidays

The holidays can be a daunting time.  Despite the fact that the holidays are meant to be about family, being thankful, and spending quality time with the ones that we love, the holidays are often spent running around from one part of town to the next, spending more money than anticipated, eating hugungous amounts of food, and rediscovering the origin of family issues that were previous blocked from memory for obvious reasons.  The holidays are also daunting for another reason: loss.   It is not uncommon to see individuals experience greater grief or an onset of feelings of loss around the holidays.  The holidays remind us to appreciate what we have in our life, which ultimately reminds us of what is missing.   Holidays are also filled with tradition.  When we lose someone we love, their absence can alter some traditions, making the pain from the loss more intense.   

When the holidays start to approach, avoidance is common.  Dreading the encroaching date, we are often left feeling as if “nothing will be the same anymore”, and wonder if the holidays will ever feel cheerful again without that person.  There is some truth in that thinking.  Life is full of change, and change, in its definition, creates a different pattern of events.  The loss of a loved one will forever change your holiday experience, as that person will no longer be there.  There will probably not be another holiday that feels similar to holidays when that person was alive because that element has forever been changed.  Accepting this reality is one of the hardest parts of grief.   However, this acceptance can lead to positive changes that will create new holiday experiences and lead to finding happiness during the holidays again.  Yes, the holidays may forever be different, but they can provide positive fulfillment and pleasure in their different nature. 

The first few years after a loss can be spent creating new traditions during the holidays.  These new traditions will help write your family’s new story: a story involving healing and acceptance.   It is important to note that creating new traditions does not mean that the deceased love one is no longer an important presence in your family or included in the holidays.  It is actually very productive to include a new way to represent your loved one during the holiday, in a way that is more accepting to the reality of the loss.  Some ideas could include lighting a special candle at dinner in their memory, cooking their favorite food item for the dinner meal, or letting off a sky-lantern in their memory together as a family.  A new ritual like the ones mentioned may actually lead to more positive feelings, providing a space for the loved one who has passed, while also providing the flexibility within the family to adapt to the changes life has presented.  Always remember, change is inevitable.  Change is a product of life that we cannot control.  However, we always have the ability to determine how we react to change, and the power to adapt to what life offers us. 

Vanessa Lemminger M.A., IMF 68894
Marital and Family Therapy Registered Intern


Matthew Bruhin & Associates

4452 Park Blvd, Suite 214
Office: 619-683-3774
Fax: 619-243-7211
Employed and supervised by Matthew Bruhin, Ph.D., Lic. MFC47460


About Vanessa Lemminger: 

Vanessa Lemminger is a State of California Board of Behavioral Science Registered Marriage and Family Therapy Intern (IMF #68894), with over 2,000 hours of experience working with couples, families, and children.  Vanessa is also a member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.  Vanessa Lemminger’s office is located in San Diego, California.

For more information, please visit her website at, or contact her directly at  You may also subscribe to her blog at:

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