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How To Handle The Holidays When A Loved One Is Gone

The holidays can be a magical time, full of friends, family and happiness. Yet, for some, the holidays could stand as a reminder of someone who has recently passed away. How do you handle the first holiday gathering when there is an empty spot at the table?

Loss can be inevitable. But, life for the rest of the family has to go on. Coping with a missing parent or sibling at the dinner table can be very challenging. Dr. Yazhini Srivathsal, a psychiatrist at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital, offers these six tips to help you during a difficult time:

  1. Allow yourself to grieve and understand that this holiday might be different than the others. 
  2. Make a plan on what you want to do and try to stick with it. Understand that there is no right or wrong and do whatever will work for you and your family. For example, if you want to leave an empty seat at the table, that is perfectly fine, as is removing the seat. If you want to pack up and go with your family on a cruise, then go.
  3. Try to have all members of the family involved in the planning, as everybody grieves in a different way. 
  4. If you have children, please make sure you talk to them about grief and explain to them that this is a normal process in healing. 
  5. Family traditions are beautiful, but so is making new traditions. This could be traditions that would honor the person lost, like having each person of the family talk about a wonderful memory they have about the lost person. You can also cook the lost person's favorite dish.
  6. Don’t feel bad if you think you need help. Just ask. A lot of family and friends would be willing to help you and your family. Please be kind to yourself, ask for help, and accept help when offered. In addition to this, there is always professional help you can receive if you need it. 

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