Coping with Grief During the Holidays

By Ashley Barnes

Recent Events.

Grief touches all of us. Many readers are familiar with the recent tragedy at the University of Virginia (UVA). While on a bus returning from a field trip in Washington D.C., three innocent young men lost their lives to gun violence. Headlines like these have become too familiar and the impact of these losses on victims’ loved ones is insurmountable. The Mental Health Center extends our most heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families and anyone else who is grieving as we move into the holidays. 

What is grief?

Though many of us are familiar with grief and the heaviness of emotions that it entails, it can look different for all of us. Hospice Foundation of America describes grief as a reaction to loss, as subjective and varied much like how no snowflake is identical; there is no timetable to grief and we may express our grief in different “styles” (2022). This means that grief can look like crying and talking about our loved ones frequently. For some of us, grief looks like channeling our focus into activities. The main point: there is no right way to grieve. 

Grief and the Holidays.

As the winter holidays approach, the media and our general conversations emphasize spending time with loved ones. We think of gifts to give loved ones, time we will spend with them, becoming more cognizant than usual of those present and not present in our lives. Many of us won’t have the opportunity to spend the holidays and cold winter months with those we love due to losing them. For these reasons, the holidays tend to be challenging as it is for many of us and are especially hard for those who are mourning. 

Tips on Managing Grief.

Keeping busy can prevent us from dwelling too intensely on our grief. Activities with other loved ones in our support network such as family members, friends, and those in our community can remind us of the love and support still in our lives. Keeping busy and surrounding ourselves with support can be especially important around the holidays.

Engaging in self-care is critically important when we are moving through a period of grief and mourning. This could look like taking steps to get adequate sleep, exercise, and healthy food. Many people connect to their spirituality or faith when moving through a period of grief. Taking time to rest is essential as well.

Keeping a journal is yet another way we can manage our grief in a healthy way. Expressing how we feel on paper can be a freeing and can cultivate meaningful expression of our experience. Further, some emotions may be easier for us to write about instead of verbally expressing.

Sometimes we can develop complicated grief as a result of a traumatic loss; similarly, many who experience a profound loss go on to develop severe depression symptoms. Seeking support from a sensitive, caring mental health professional can be life changing for those of us moving through particularly painful symptoms. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication and psychotherapists can provide helpful interventions that can help us move forward in our lives while honoring those we have lost. Additionally, ketamine therapy for depression can be an effective treatment method that provides many people welcome relief from symptoms. 

If you seek support from a mental health professional, please contact us at the Mental Health Center for sensitive, attentive care.





Hospice Foundation of America. (2022). What is grief? Retrieved November 17, 2022, from