How to Get Through the Holidays

I had planned on getting this out sooner, but too many people have been going through the transition of friends, family members, and parents. So things have been a bit hectic. Part of rebuilding after traumatic events is learning how to get through the holidays when special dates of someone’s traumatic event or loss are now etched in our memories. I know from experience that time does bring healing and it makes the holidays easier, but initially, it can be very difficult because we miss the person who passed away, or we miss who that person once was before an injury. Having worked closely with individuals who have brain injuries, there are many noticeable, or even drastic changes compared to what they once could do before a life-changing accident.

In this post, I want to share some strategies to help you get through the remainder of the holiday season and festivities a  little better.

Start Here

Let me share where I’m coming from on this topic. Three years ago, my dear friend passed away a few days before Thanksgiving. There really were no holidays for me that year. Everything was a blur. We were dealing with writing an obituary, making final decisions about the funeral service, making arrangements at the funeral home, and connecting with his friends and relatives. Yes, we were functioning, but numb and in shock. So how did I cope? Prayer and my relationship with Jesus first of all gave me the strength and wisdom to get through it all.

So think about what’s calming for you to do to get through the holidays after a traumatic event or loss. Some individuals may want to be around other people while others may need solitude. I know after driving an hour each way to get to where my friend had lived and after interacting with a lot of people regarding a wide variety of things, I wanted peace and quiet, and either quiet, soothing music or no music at all. Sometimes I would go for short walks around the hospital or outside just for a change of scenery or for fresh air.

Focus on what’s relaxing for you. Maybe take a short drive to the lake or the mountains to be alone if you want solitude. If you prefer being around others, then you can have dinner with close friends or with others who knew the person.

Unhealthy Options

Well, it’s not hard to list the unhealthy things someone might do on holidays after a trauma or loss. It’s easy for some people to mask the pain with retail therapy (shopping and spending money), or overeating, gambling, drinking, or using other substances, in an effort to stop the painful feelings or to fill the voids in their lives and hearts. But what does that gain? When the retail therapy is done, the rent or mortgage payment is still due, along with the car payment. Will the money still be there for that or is it now gone? If drinking is your choice, the alcohol will come out of your system, but the hangover and the chaos from it may have caused you to do things that you don’t remember—like tip the bartender extra big. So now, there goes the grocery money. Has that ever happened? It could.

An aspect of unhealthy choices is allowing yourself to have a pity party that will take you down into the depths of despair even further. The more we sit around thinking about our problems, the bigger and worse they become.

Healthy Options

The best advice I can give is to turn to God and ask for help with all the decisions, emotional pain, or other challenges you face. He’s always ready to listen and to offer His help if we ask.

Also, focus on the present. We can’t change what happened, but we can move forward and make choices that are healthy for us physically, emotionally, relationally, financially, and in other ways. That’s part of doing what’s good and what’s right for our mind, body, and heart.

Here are some additional suggestions. Stay as close to your normal schedule as possible. Activities like walking, working, exercising, meeting up with friends, and going to church all need to continue to be part of your life. It’s okay to hit pause if you need to, but only briefly. Isolating will do more harm than good. Instead, get out and serve others in hospice units, or hospitals, or serve at your local homeless shelters or senior centers. The more you give to others, the better you will feel. So often, when I’ve gone to minister to others, they have ministered to me more than I ever expected. How cool is that!

Some Additional Thoughts

Sometimes when a spouse or friend is no longer with us, we may have to tie up loose ends and handle some of that person’s personal or even business affairs. If it’s a spouse, a word to the wise is to be sure you know how to handle the finances from day one of the marriage. That way, if anything ever happens, you both know what to do. So many times I’ve heard women say that their husbands handled the checkbook and all aspects of their finances. Then when the spouse passed away, the wives were dealing with their loss and frantically trying to figure out what had to be done to keep bills paid on time, find account numbers or passwords to access online bill paying. Be proactive now, so that if something happens you will have a plan in place and will know how to access accounts and how to handle things. This will give you greater peace of mind.

Also, enjoy the memories! Part of processing traumatic events and losses is to enjoy the memories of the former way of life or of that person before an accident or illness. Those are blessings. We can’t change what happened, but we can choose to appreciate what we’ve had in our relationships with others and treasure the memories. If the person is still with us, we can determine to make every day and every minute count by being a blessing to that person and to those with whom we interact. Love never fails and gratitude is everything!

The birthdays and holidays will pop up but as time goes by, we learn to celebrate the time we’ve had with someone and to cherish the memories. Yes, there may be a few tears from time to time as we process those painful experiences, but we can pause to consider how grateful we were to have had that person in our lives for as long as we did. God brings healing as no human can and time is one of His valuable tools in that process.


We’ve talked about where to start to help get through the holidays and we’ve looked at the unhealthy and the healthy options we have when dealing with traumas and losses. Choosing options wisely and focusing on the positives and the healthy options will take us in a good direction so we can better enjoy the holiday season. If children lift your spirit, then find some to be around and have a Merry Christmas!

I would be interested to hear about the ways you’ve made it through holidays after a traumatic event.  When you leave a comment below,  you can be sure that I’ll respond.  Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts!


Thank you for sharing!

12 thoughts on “How to Get Through the Holidays”

  1. This is going to be one of the toughest holidays ever as we are dealing with the first holiday after a couple deaths in the family.  I know its going to be a difficult time but its important that we are there for each other.  The void will never be filled but at the end of the day life does need to go on.

    I just hope we can laugh as much as we will cry.  My year so far has been handled because i believe so there is no reason to believe that wont carry on.  I have been able to stear away from unhealthy choices and I work hard to continue on that path.

    Thank you for a great article.


    • I’m so sorry to hear that your year has brought deaths in your family, Dale. With God’s help, the healing will come over time. Because of His help, you made it this far. The first year of holidays without those loved ones can be very difficult because they were special to us and we miss them. Give yourself permission to grieve and ask God to help you do it in healthy ways. As we thank Him for the time our loved ones were with us and thank Him for the healing that He alone can bring, we shift the weight onto His shoulders—which is where He wants it anyway. The void of our loved ones will always be there, but the healing that the Lord brings allows us to be more sensitive to and reach out to others in similar situations. May God bless you and blanket you and your family with His abundant love, peace, strength, and healing. Thank you for sharing your difficult experience.

  2. Thank you for sharing this great information on how to get though the Holliday.It was really nice to find this post.

    I know is hard to lost a love one and now we experience something like this since my wife just lost one of her Cousin and is hard because she don’t want celebrate or anything.

    I will tell her to read your post she will find a lot of value.

    • I’m sorry to hear that your wife’s cousin passed away. The holidays are when families often gather, so I hope she can focus on the good memories she has of her cousin and thank God for the time that her cousin was present. May God’s strength, comfort, and healing presence envelop you and your family during this holiday season since the void of your loved one is freshly felt. Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts and experiences. 


  3. I lost my grandmother two days before Christmas seven years ago, she had an amazing personality, was very active in the community and an amazing Giver.. so since then, every December, I start to round up a lot of gifts and money I could spare and on Christmas Eve, I give and donate to the less fortunate .

    • Sounds like you enjoy being generous just like God does, Solomon! We can always find someone we can bless when we look for ways we can be a blessing. I’m proud of you pursuing that. It’s fun to be a giver!! I love it! God bless you!

  4. I have a relative who struggles at Christmas time when their father died in the October of that year and the birthday was on Christmas Day. He does speak about things but like you mentioned he has unhealthy addictions like overeating and a lot of supermarket shopping. This also may be connected to other things that have happened in his past and also connected to his fathers death. He gets along alright on Christmas Day but in December he can be very grumpy. He used to go to a church and he was better. I think doing healthy things really does help when you have lost someone dear to you, especially if its around special occasions. 

    We lost two members of family this year my auntie and grandma. Both had serious illnesses, I like to think of the good times and that they are out of pain. 

    • Aww, I’m sorry to hear that both your aunt and grandmother passed away this year. The holidays can be more difficult to get through, but with God’s help we make it! You’re right, it takes time to heal and sometimes we have to forgive those who have passed away and make peace regarding any unresolved issues, so we can move forward. Too often, loved ones pass away and we haven’t had a chance to say all we want to say to them or to offer forgiveness. Even though they are gone, we can still choose to forgive them (or ourselves) for any issues that keep coming up in our minds, so we can fully move forward. May God comfort, strengthen, and heal you and your family during this holiday season. Thank you for taking time to share your experiences. 

  5. Hi Colleen,

    Nice article. Your article is a little bit sad to read. But the good thing is you suggests how to recover from sadness of losing someone. Especially on this holiday season. Very tragic though.  But you think by “crying” it will release more pain? And eventually, speed up the healing? Because when I cry, I feel some sort of a relief. What do you think?   

    • Yes, my post is a bit sad, but hopefully, what I’ve learned and shared will help others. There are too many people whose loved ones have passed away this year. During the holidays, the family gatherings become harder without the presence of those loved ones. The first year of the loss makes the holidays especially hard. It’s true that part of the grieving process is the tears that flow, because they bring relief. It’s okay to shed tears and also to enjoy the memories of our loved ones. Their lives were special to us and we miss them. As time goes on, the tears will become less, but memories of our loved ones will always be with us.Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts. God bless you!


  6. I definitely hear you on this topic. Thank you so much for writing the article and reaching out with suggestions to people who are struggling this Christmas season. Personally, this is the first Christmas we are experiencing without my one grandmother who passed away a little over a month ago. Turning to God is definitely something my family does regularly and I don’t know where we would be without His strength and peace. God bless and Merry Christmas

    • Hi Steve… I’m sorry to hear that your grandmother passed away last month. So many people are struggling this Christmas. Wow. I’m so glad to hear that you and your family are relying on the Lord. Without Him, we are sunk. With Him, we can make it on our journeys. Thank you for stopping by and sharing the challenges you are facing this season. May God strengthen, comfort, and envelop you and your family with His unfailing love during this difficult time. God bless you!


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