Clara Hinton
Grief Speaker, Author, and Workshop Leader

Avoiding Holiday Depression When Grieving a Major Loss

4/1/2013 (Grief Relief)

Depression is becoming as familiar as the common cold.  Because we are now aware of the symptoms of depression, we can more easily identify when a person is suffering from the pain and loneliness of depression.  By being aware of what to look for, we can now use skills that can help us diminish symptoms and sometimes avoid holiday depression following a major loss in our lives.


Probably the single most difficult thing to face is the reality that your loved one will not physically be with you during the holiday.  Because the word holiday reminds us of such things as parties, family gatherings, and festive occasions, one can easily slip into depression just by thinking about trying to carry out the familiar holiday traditions you once experienced with your family and friends.


How can you diminish or avoid holiday depression?  Don’t set your expectations too high! Reminders of your loved one are everywhere, so it’s necessary for you to be gentle with yourself.  For many who are grieving the loss of a loved one, getting dressed and eating a meal on a holiday is a major accomplishment.  Remember—there is no right or wrong way to handle the day.  Do what is most appropriate for you to get through the day. Too often we try to please others when we should be taking care of ourselves during our heaviest moments of grief. 


If you have younger children in the household, explain to them that this year will be a little different.  Call on relatives and friends to help with your younger children.  Ease the guilt you have about possibly taking joy from your children by allowing others to help!  During the holiday season, you will find that most people are receptive to helping, so don’t be afraid to ask.  You will find that more help is available than you imagined.


Call your family together and choose doing something a little different.  Change the menu for your meal.  Visit a church in a nearby community where you won’t feel embarrassed if you cry.  Celebrate the holiday on a different day, if the actual date of the holiday is too painful for you.  You might even choose to go out of town for the holiday.  This is a good time to break away from past holiday traditions.  Doing things just a little bit different helps to ease your pain. 


Remind yourself often that grief depletes you emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Exhaustion lends to depression.  Don’t expect too much of yourself. Instead of baking cookies, buy them from the supermarket.  Don’t worry about cleaning your house.  Ask friends to help.  If you don’t feel like facing a lot of people in stores, order your gifts on the Internet.  Rest should be your number one priority.


Holidays often magnify the feelings of loss you are experiencing.  It is normal to want your loved one with you now more than ever before.  Instead of trying to push away your grief feelings, let your tears fall.  Release some of your emotions through prayer, journaling your thoughts, and seeking the emotional support of family and friends.


Remember—you will never “get over it”, and that’s okay.  But, you will “get through it”, and a day will come when you will do so with inner strength and a positive reserve of peace and joy.   By preparing for the holidays without your loved one, you can actually have a bit of control of an otherwise out of control situation.  This, too, will aid you in diminishing holiday depression.  Each step forward is a step more in your journey through grief.  With proper planning, you can make it through the holidays using the skills you’ve learned for avoiding holiday depression.

If you are interested in a workshop or Clara coming to speak to your group, please email Clara at: Every attempt will be made to get back to you within two business days.

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