Lost a loved one? How to cope with grief during the holidays


By Rev. Michelle Foster
Conference Staff

For many the holidays are happy and exciting, marked by the expectation and anticipation of gift giving, laughter and Christmas traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. Among us, however, are others who find themselves dreading this season of merriment and joy because of the overwhelming sense of loss and grief that surrounds them as they mourn the loss of someone they loved dearly. If you are dealing with grief this season or are caring for a loved one or friend who is grieving, consider these tips:

  • Listen. Listen to your heart. We know ourselves better than anyone else. Even if we don’t always want to admit it, we know what we need as we grieve. As the days of Christmas draw closer to us, listen carefully to yourself and respond to your needs. Let others know what it is that you want and need. Friends and family want to help but do not always know the best way to aid you in your journey through grief.
  • Give yourself permission to break traditions. If you find traditions especially hard this year, don’t do them. It is perfectly acceptable to skip traditions for a year or to create a completely new tradition.
  • Make room for tears. One of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves is express our emotions. If you find yourself beginning to cry then let it happen. Tears are a natural way of expressing ourselves. They are a God-given physical and emotional release.
  • Respect grief in each person. As you gather with family and friends, remember that each person grieves in his or her own unique way. Respect the way each person grieves, do not impose your ways of grieving on others and do not let others impose their way on you.  
  • Find comfort in faith. Read scriptures that have brought you comfort in times past. Sing a hymn that brings peace to your spirit. Trust that God is with you especially in your journey of grief, and surround yourself with your community of faith to hold you up during this difficult time.

Pain, grief and loss are something that everyone will experience at one time or another in life. You are not alone. There are people and resources to help you, your family and your friends during these dark and lonely days.

Some recommended books for adults:

  • Good Grief by Granger E. Westberg
  • Grieving: The Pain and the Promise by Deanna Edwards
  • Praying our Goodbyes by Joyce Rupp
  • Children and Grief by Joey O’Connor
  • The Empty Chair: Handling Grief on Holidays and Special Ocasions by Susan J. Zonnebelt-Smeenge and Robert C. De Vries
  • Holiday Help: A Guide for Holidays and Special Days by Sherry L. Williams
  • A Decembered Grief: Living with Loss While Others are Celebrating by Harold Ivan Smith

Some recommended books for children:

  • Lifetimes by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen
  • Never Say Goodbye by Lea Gillespie Gant

Pastoral resources
The Rev. Susannah Grubbs Carr, pastor of congregational life and care at Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church and former hospice chaplain, is available to speak to your congregation and to provide a fuller list of resources for use in your local church. Carr and the congregation of Galloway Memorial UMC have developed a ministry of caring that includes ministry to families immediately following a death, anniversary remembrances, a monthly grief support group, and on-going care and pastoral counseling. Contact Carr at scarr@gallowayumc.org or 601-353-9691. 

The Rev. Elbrist Mason, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Brandon and certified pastoral counselor, is also available to speak to your congregation or provide a fuller list of resources and materials. Contact Mason at 601-813-5597 or nb987@bellsouth.net. Trinity UMC will offer a grief support group beginning in January and each December conducts the workshop “Holiday Blues.”

Foster serves on the Mississippi Conference staff.