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  • Writer's pictureAbegglen Counseling

Missing Loved Ones During the Holidays: Coping with Grief

By: Cassi Ott, Counseling Intern, MS Candidate

The holidays are a difficult time of the year and can be even harder when you are grieving the absence of a loved one. Everything can remind you of them: that song on the radio, the lights on the tree, the stocking with their name on it…

There’s no way to escape the memories and longing for your loved one this time of the year, but there are ways to survive the heartbreak and I can attest to it.

This year marks the sixth Christmas since the passing of my cousin Samantha, who would have turned ten this year if she had not lost her battle with cancer. Grief does not get easier with time, we just get better at coping with it, expressing it, and celebrating Samantha’s life.

I believe the queen of grief therapy, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, said it best when she said:

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would they want you to.”

Considering this, remember that it is important to be gentle with yourself during the holiday season as you are going through something incredibly difficult.

Remember everyone copes with grief in their own way.

Your family members may not show their grief in the same way or to the same extent that you do and that is okay! Accepting that there is no right way to grieve and that there is no time limit to grieving will help you be kind and heal.

Communicating with your family openly about your needs during this difficult time of the year will help you cope with the absence of your loved one. Being honest about what you need, what you want to do, and what you definitely do NOT want to do will help your family know how to support you best. It is excusable for you to choose to miss holiday events, especially if the overload of holiday cheer is too much for you to handle at this moment.

Traditions can be difficult to do without your loved one around.

Deciding which traditions you want to keep, those you want to change, or possibly creating a new tradition in memory of your loved one, is a step you can take every year during the holidays. Whether you do this by leaving an empty seat at the table in memory of your loved one, lighting a candle in their memory, putting up a wreath at their grave, making a memorial ornament, or donating to a cause in their name, celebrating your loved one’s life should be done in a way that brings you comfort and allows you to gently embrace your love for them despite their absence.

So remember, you will get through this difficult time. While this time is hard it is also filled with so many opportunities to find joy, feel love, and have gratitude in embracing the memories of your loved one while still grieving your loss.

Be kind to yourself,



If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Cassi, you can reach her via email: or call our intake line: 608-709-6972.

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[This article does not create a client-counselor relationship. This article is general counseling information and is not to be considered legal or medical advice. Please consult with your mental health professional before you rely on this information.]

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