The responsibility rests with patients to contact CANSA for assistance. Read more...

Grieving the Loss of a Loved One During the Holidays

Lights, music, gifts, decorations, holiday gatherings of family and friends – our society almost forces us to be in a good mood during the holiday season. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, your feelings may be inconsistent with the way others “want” you to feel. Set the pace this season and decide what is important for you. Plan with family which traditions to include and what to let go of this year.

Prepare for the Holidays

  • Be aware of your expectations of yourself and keep them manageable.
  • Plan carefully: rather than be overwhelmed by the season, pick one or two things that you want to do rather than do many things that you feel you should do.
  • Decide and communicate what you won’t do this season, rather than say you can’t.
  • Listen for the needs of family members and try to incorporate them into the plan.
  • Avoid cancelling the holidays. You can take time to be alone but do not isolate yourself.
  • Accept help from others to manage the particulars of holiday celebrations. Being responsible for all the preparations is physically and emotionally draining.
  • Anticipation of holiday events often leads to excessive worry and loss of sleep. Take time to relax.
  • Be aware of increased alcohol intake. It may dull your feelings but only temporarily.
  • Remember the deceased loved one in a special symbolic way during the holidays. This gives others permission to share their feelings.
  • This is your holiday. Let it have meaning for you and your family. Allow yourself the opportunity to express tears, sadness, anger, and even laughter. Accept comfort from those you love. Expressing your feelings and needs will help you manage this difficult time.

Family Traditions

  • Establish new holiday traditions in memory of your loved one.
  • Old traditions may need to be set aside. Celebrate in a different room than usual or eat out rather than at home.
  • Create a memorial area to your loved one in the home, perhaps reflecting a favourite hobby.
  • Light a memorial candle in memory of your loved one.
  • Start a family Christmas or holiday book to record old and new traditions.
  • Contribute money or volunteer time in memory of your loved one as a living memorial.
  • Review the photo album as a family.
  • Skip fancy meals and dishes if you don’t feel like preparing or eating them.
  • Remember pets – they grieve too and need loving attention.


  • Bring out one or two cherished decorations a day.
  • Purchase new ornaments if the old ones are too painful this season.
  • Help children choose or create a special decoration for the Christmas tree to symbolise their relationship with the loved one.
  • Purchase a special ornament to remember the loved one; decorate the house and tree around the hobbies and talents of your loved one.


  • Do what is right for you during the holidays.
  • Be nice to yourself.
  • Plan ahead for family gatherings.
  • Eliminate unnecessary stress.
  • Treasure memories.
  • Friends are important.
  • Be compassionate.
  • Be patient.
  • Involve the children.
  • Offer to help others.

Source: Oncolink

Do you have a question?
Book a counselling session

CANSA Tele Counselling

 0800 22 6622 Toll Free
 072 197 9305 English and Afrikaans (text only)
 071 867 3530 Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and Siswati (text only)


  Find Your Care Centre

About Us | Get in Touch

1931 - 2021. 90 Year Anniversary

Sign up to receive news and updates: