Coping with Grief during the Holidays Checklist


December 11, 2023

Grief Holidays Checklist

The holiday season, with its warm gatherings, cheerful festivities, and joyful traditions, is often depicted as a time of happiness and togetherness. However, for those coping with grief, it can be an incredibly challenging and emotionally turbulent period. The stark contrast between the external celebration and internal pain can make the holidays a particularly difficult time. 

Use the following checklist to help you decide what is best for you this year. Be realistic and remember grief depletes our energy for a time. Share this with your family or have them do one of their own and compare notes. 

Check what you would traditionally do with a “T” and then check with a “W” what you want to do this year. 

Holiday Cards

  • shorten my list
  • include a “holiday letter”
  • skip this year
  • mail as usual


  • give cash
  • shop on-line
  • ask for help
  • shop early
  • make your gifts
  • give baked goods
  • shop with a friend
  • ask for help wrapping gifts
  • make a list of gifts you want before you go
  • shop when the stores are the least busy


  • modify your decorations
  • ask for help
  • let others do it
  •  have special decorations for your loved one
  • don’t do decorations
  • decorate as usual

Holiday Music

  • avoid turning the radio on
  • wear earplugs while you shop
  • listen to it, have a good cry
  • attend a concert or play
  • listen to favorite holiday music

Holiday Dinners (including Thanksgiving)

  • go out to dinner
  • go to someone else’s house
  • prepare dinner in your home
  • invite friends over
  • go out of town by yourself
  • eat alone at home
  • change time of dinner
  • change routine, such as do a buffet
  • change location, eat in a different room
  • ask for help

Miscellaneous Traditions

  • attend holiday parties
  • don’t attend holiday parties
  • purchase poinsettia in honor of your loved one
  • plant living tree in honor of your loved one
  • bouquet of flowers in honor of your loved one
  • volunteer in honor of your loved one
  • bake, mut modify how much
  • bake the usual food
  • hang stockings with notes to loved one
  • don’t hang stockings
  • visit the cemetery
  • don’t visit the cemetery
  • spend quiet time alone
  • open gifts at a different time
  • open gifts a the usual time
  • go to your normal religious service
  • go to religious service, but at a different time
  • don’t go to your religious service
  • go to a totally different church service
  • do something for someone else

Post Holiday and New Year’s Day

  • take down decorations early
  • go out of town
  • avoid New Year’s parties
  • attend New year’s parties
  • have a New year’s party
  • spend time with a few close friends
  • go to someone else’s house

We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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