Navigating Grief During the Holidays

December 17, 2021
Navigating Grief During the Holidays

Surviving the Holidays Information and Resources for Families From Rainbows for All Children

As the holidays approach, keep in mind this may be a particularly difficult and triggering time for children and parents/caregivers who are missing those absent from their lives. Please remember that children grieve from a variety of losses, not just the death of a family member. A child who is coping with their parents' divorce may be experiencing grief from broken family traditions, or not having everyone together during this festive time. A child whose parent is deployed, has been deported, or is incarcerated will feel the absence of that person particularly during the holidays. Over the upcoming months we will continue to provide resources for families on making it through such a challenging time. Please feel free to share these widely with anyone you feel might benefit. 

General Grief/Stress

64 Tips for Coping with Grief at the Holidays -  This article provides a list of tips to help coping with grief during the holidays.

A Guide to Surviving the Holiday Season: Tips for Managing Sadness and Stress When Everyone (Else) Seems Happy

Helping Children Cope with Grief and Loss During the Holiday Season

Book for Adults: Surviving the Holidays Without You: Navigating Grief During Special Seasons by Gary Roe

“Finding your way to grieve well over the holidays can be overwhelming without a trusted guide. Gary knows your pain and will walk beside you, offering effective tools to help you face the holidays with hope rather than apprehension. Healing from loss is challenging. Facing a holiday while grieving the loss of a spouse, child, parent, or someone close is tough duty. Use holidays and special times to help you grieve and honor the one you're missing.”

How to Get Through the Holidays After Loss (Article from the New York Times) 

Loss due to a Death

Getting Through the Holidays - This brief article, and accompanying tip sheet, provide guidance to navigating the challenging holiday season after a family member has died. 

Helping Grieving Families Through the Holidays (A PDF information guide, created by Bo’s Place)

Surviving the Holidays A quick information sheet addressing holidays after a loss. This is focused primarily on loss as a result of death, and it was written specifically for those who’s family member was an organ donor; however, the tips apply to any type of loss and are very good. (Credit: Michelle A. Post, M.A.)

Help with the Holidays   This downloadable PDF guide includes tips for getting through the holiday season, including assessing current traditions, making new traditions, and helping children during this time. (Credit: Lost and Found Grief Center)

How To Deal With Grief If It's Your First Holiday Without A Loved One    This article provides helpful stories and tips for dealing with grief during the holidays, giving special attention to COVID-19 loss.

Coping with Grief During the Holidays After Losing Family Members to COVID-19 - Article from Teen Vogue that shares one family’s story of losing a family member and how they found ways to survive. Full disclosure: it is pro-vaccine and pro-wearing masks as important means of preventing COVID-19. 

Preparing for Father’s Day and Preparing for Mother’s Day - These corresponding downloadable pdfs provide tips and tools for Father’s or Mother’s day after a child’s loss. (Credit: Transitions Life Care) 


10 Tips for Surviving the Holidays After Divorce “Nothing kills holiday cheer like the fresh residue of divorce. Kristen Hick walks us through moving on and making happiness a part of your new tradition.”

Divorce: Surviving the Holiday - This article answers a reader's question: “This will be our first holiday since the divorce. I feel like our family has been broken. How can I give my kids a good holiday?”

4 Ways to Give Children of Divorce The Gift of a Guilt-Free Holiday - This article focuses on the guilt children of divorce may feel around the holidays and how to help alleviate this guilt through parent’s actions.

When Parents Live Apart: How to Make the Holidays Happy for All - This article profiles different families as they co-parent after separation, particularly around the holidays.

Holidays Are Tough After a Divorce. Here’s How I Learned to Prepare.  - A New York Times article from the perspective of a single mom


How to Handle Holiday Separations (Deployment) - This article offers tips on how to handle a family member’s deployment over the holiday season

Surviving the Holidays for a Military Spouse - This article, from a new military spouse, gives a few tips to make their first year as a military spouse a successful one.

Traumatic Loss

The Holidays with Kids Who’ve Been Exposed to Trauma - A podcast episode: “Does it feel like your child is sabotaging the holidays? Are there more tantrums, sullenness, and anxiety during the holiday season? We explore why and what to do about it with Rebeccca Robotham, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Beehive Counseling & Wellness in Connecticut. She is also an adoptee and former foster child.”


Happy Holidays Despite Incarceration  - “When a parent is in jail for the holidays, whether this is the first holiday season since the parent’s incarceration or one of many, kids may be struggling with feelings that are often difficult for them to talk about. Solo Moms, in the meantime, are often dealing with their own extra stressors at this time of year, including financial strain and difficult feelings of their own. How, then, can a Solo Mom try to help the kids (and herself!) cope?”

When an Imprisoned Parent Isn’t Home for the Holidays - “Young or old, having a parent behind bars means a disruption in the family narrative and a change in the concept of home. As the holiday season comes to a close, may we be mindful of those children of all ages whose incarcerated parents were not home for the holidays.”

You can also find helpful books, articles, TedTalks, podcasts, and more—specific to common pillars of loss--on the Rainbows website:

Surviving the Holidays Activities 

Ornament Crafts: 

Clay Memory Ornaments

Cookie Cutter Memory Ornaments

Glass Memory Ornaments 

Paper Crafts:

Memory Star

Other Crafts:

Holiday Light Jars