The holiday season can be emotionally overwhelming for those who have lost a loved one, especially if it’s the first year without them. You may experience feelings of emptiness while trying to celebrate in their absence, or feel sadness, anger, or even jealousy watching other families celebrate together.

There’s no denying that it’s difficult to make it through the holidays after the loss of a loved one, but with the right preparation, perspective, and support, you can learn how to cope with feelings of grief and loss, and even incorporate the memory of your loved one into holiday celebrations.  Here are some tips on coping with grief during the holiday season.

Be aware that the holidays and the months surrounding them will be difficult, and set realistic expectations for yourself. Grief is a natural process, and it’s okay to feel sad, angry, and hurt. Acknowledge how you are feeling and set healthy boundaries for yourself. If you don’t feel like going to a party or work event, don’t push yourself. Your friends and family will understand.

Donate to a charity in your loved one’s name. While the holidays are about exchanging gifts with family and friends, they’re also about thankfulness and giving. This year, honor your loved one by making a donation in their name to their favorite charity or cause. If you feel up for it, you could even spend a day volunteering with a friend or child.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Allow yourself to be comforted by friends, family, and coworkers during this challenging time. While it may be uncomfortable to reach out, your loved ones are there for comfort, support, or just a warm meal. In addition, consider finding a support group or bereavement counselor.

Attend a religious service. If religion is an important part of your life, finding a holiday service can bring a sense of peace and community during this difficult time.

Take that vacation you’ve been wanting to go on. While there’s a fine line between self-care and isolating yourself, if you feel that you are able to handle a vacation, take a week off and go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. For some, it may be easier to get away than being in the house that you and your loved one spent every holiday in together. As always, though, monitor how you are feeling and never push yourself out of a comfortable or safe boundary.

Honor your loved one’s favorite traditions. Make your loved one’s favorite dish at your holiday meals, celebrate their favorite activities, and share stories of their life. This is a great way to honor your loved one’s memory and to remind yourself that even if they are gone, their legacy lives on.

The holiday season is a special time of year to spend with the people you love, and can be especially painful if you have recently lost a loved one. While it may be difficult, it’s important to remember that the holidays can still be a time of celebration, even through grief. Nobody grieves in the same way, and there’s nothing wrong with celebrating or enjoying time spent with loved ones—it doesn’t mean you don’t miss or love your loved one. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays after losing a loved one, as long as you are taking care of yourself and celebrating however feels right for you.

Whether you have recently lost a loved one, or have a loved one in Hospice this holiday season, there are resources available to you. Hospice of South Texas offers both counseling and bereavement services for those coping with illness, loss, and more. For more information, call the dedicated team at our Victoria office at 361.572.4300, our Hallettsville office at 361.798.2077, or fill out a contact form here.