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  1. Employee Resources
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  3. Coping with Grief Over the Holiday Season

Coping with Grief Over the Holiday Season

Release Date: December 16, 2020

Due to the pandemic this year, many may be experiencing a variety of losses, from lives lost to the virus to feelings of increased isolation and a loss of social connections, or perhaps a general sense of feeling overwhelmed. Holiday traditions, music, and festive decorations may serve as a reminder of past holidays and generate feelings of sadness and loss. The focus on family, togetherness, and celebration can make the holiday season especially difficult for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

It is important to be kind to yourself as you navigate this holiday season. Here are some helpful strategies to help you cope with grief during the holidays:

  • Allow yourself to feel. Grief is complicated and expresses itself in different ways. Give yourself permission to feel –without judgement – whatever emotions you are experiencing. It is alright to feel sad or angry one moment, and experience joy and happiness in another. Keep in mind that the holiday season does not require you to deny your feelings of grief.
  • Find support. Let yourself receive practical and emotional support. Close friends and family can help alleviate some of the stress of the holiday season by helping with online shopping, offering decorating tips on a video call, or providing socially distant meal drop offs. Consider finding a support group to talk with others.
  • Take it easy. The holiday season can be a hectic time. Try to be gentle with yourself and make space for comfort or joy. Allow time for rest and relaxation.
  • Create new traditions. If following some of your holiday traditions might be too painful at this point, you may want to evaluate which ones you feel comfortable maintaining this year and which to change or pause. It is okay. Find new traditions, like virtual holiday get-togethers, sharing a virtual paint night or other creative activity with friends, or plan a virtual gift exchange.
  • Make a plan. Create a simple plan for each day ahead of time and give yourself permission to be flexible to allow for changes as needed.
  • Honor your memories. You may find comfort in finding ways to remember and honor lost love ones over the holidays. For example, you can give a toast or say a prayer in their honor before dinner, light a candle, donate a gift in their memory, or share stories of your loved one during a virtual holiday gathering.

Your Employee Assistance Program is Here to Support

If you need additional support with grief, contact your Component Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAP provides free and confidential counseling and information to help you cope this holiday season. EAP support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information or for help in contacting your EAP, write to your DHS Work-Life specialists at worklife@hq.dhs.gov.

Last Updated: 12/16/2020
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