How to prepare for the Holidays

Written by Clinical Director, Liz Dreibelbis

Written by Clinical Director, Liz Dreibelbis

Tips for Families who are Grieving during the Holidays

Children grieve differently than adults.  This can be seen clearly during the holidays.  Adults can often feel burdened by grief strongly during this time with pressure to make the holidays special for children.  When grieving, this can be an overwhelming task.  Yet, we find young children are the least burdened by grief during the holidays.  The joy children have during this time of year can actually be contagious and help to ease the heaviness in adults.  Being open with your family about how you are feeling will help guide you as you prepare for the Holidays.  Therefore, we encourage an open discussion in how to prepare for and cope with the holidays ahead.


  • Preparation is key.  Involve the whole family and let them know what to expect.  

  • In the beginning of November, sit down with your family and decide what feels right.  Go around and ask what is important to each person.  Include traditions that are important to the children and decide to get rid of things that no one will miss.  

  • As the adult be honest with the children and remind them that it is okay to be excited about the Holiday and it is okay to be sad about missing the person who died.

  • If decorating sounds overwhelming but is important to your children, find a close friend who can help you or do it for you.  It is okay to minimize how much you decorate.

  • If shopping sounds overwhelming - for food or gifts - this is something someone can do for you and online shopping helps.

  • Create and plan a new tradition that includes honoring the person who died.  Set a place at the table in honor of them, do a toast, make their favorite meal, light a candle, wear a piece of clothing that belonged to the person, create a memory box that each person can include and then share each memory.

  • Get exercise and vitamin D.

  • Pay it forward - as a family do one small thing for someone else in honor of the person who died.  Pay for someone’s meal, serve at a soup kitchen, buy coffee for the person behind you, etc.

The Day of:

  • Have a structured plan for the day.  Know that emotions will come up throughout the day.  Knowing you have a schedule can help to ease anxiety for all family members.

  • Allow yourself to feel each feeling.  Have a place and a safe person you can have nearby to be with you when you are hit with grief and need a few minutes to regroup.

  • Have a self care idea - something that can be just for you.

  • Have a designated space that can hold little notes to the person who died.  Children can write to the loved one or draw pictures throughout the day and place them in the “special place,” such as a stocking, box, or on the person’s favorite chair.

  • Laugh, cry and be honest about how you’re feeling in the moment.

We hope these tips will help you and your family as you plan to celebrate Thanksgiving this week as well as the upcoming Holiday Season.

Michelle Noble