The Empty Chair: Five Helps to Cope with Grief This Holiday Season

Young woman wrapped in a blanket is sitting on floor depressed with grief

For many, the holidays bring decorated homes filled with family, festivities, and food. But for those grieving the loss of a loved one, the holidays highlight the empty chair at the table or one fewer stocking hanging on the mantel.

Grief can eclipse the brightest holiday lights — but it doesn’t have to. Use these five helps from our team at LeBauer to cope with the grief of loss this holiday season.

1. Give Yourself Space to Grieve

Grieving hurts, but it means you’re on the road to healing. Trying to “fake it till you make it” may prolong the healing process and compound the anguish. Instead of avoiding grief, prepare for it. Know its symptoms: mood swings, crying spells, and even depression. And give yourself permission to grieve when it shows up unannounced. If you’re driving home from a party and feel you need to cry, pull over in a safe place and allow yourself to grieve.

2. Know It’s OK to Say “No”

An invitation-covered refrigerator can chill anyone’s holiday spirit, especially if you’re grieving. Set some boundaries. If taking a moment means canceling last minute, then cancel. Stay home to watch Netflix instead of attending the office white elephant gift exchange. Lighten your holiday shopping load by buying only for your immediate family (your friends will understand). Maybe even use the extra money to book a massage for yourself. 

3. Call on a Friend to Be an Advocate

Resist the temptation to close yourself off completely to others. Rely on a friend or two to be an advocate — someone you can talk and cry and vent with. Ask them to drive you to and from certain events. Allow them to share your journey through the holiday season, and give them permission to speak up if they’re concerned. Grief obscures your limits. Friends clarify them.

4. Honor Your Loved One with a New Tradition

Creating a new tradition may feel jarring at first, but it can be a great way to celebrate the memory of your loved one. Consider ways to honor them and their life: Light a candle at the dinner table every night. Share a favorite memory and make a toast. Or donate in their name to a group or charity that shares the same interests they did. 

5. Reach Out to a Counselor

The people in your inner circle love you and want to help you, but the holidays are still hard. Reach outside your family and friends to the safety and help of a professional counselor. A counselor can provide a healthy, comfortable space to talk through pain and guide you through this difficult season. No one grieving a loss should feel alone or misunderstood, especially during the holidays. LeBauer HealthCare’s team of counselors are here for you. 


Begin a Conversation with a LeBauer Counselor Today

LeBauer HealthCare knows the holidays can be difficult. If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one you can request an appointment today with a LeBauer Behavioral Medicine provider for counseling at any of our nine convenient locations in the Triad — even if you’re not an existing LeBauer patient. We’re here for you. 


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