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Fact Sheet

How to deal with grief and loss during holidays and special occasions

Holidays and special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries may be a time when you get together with family and friends. Often, if you’ve lost someone you love, you might be reminded that this person isn’t around. This can be a hard and each person will cope with this differently.

Here are some ideas that may help you better manage these special occasions:

Plan for the day. Treat the anniversary or special occasion in the same way as you do other important days. Plan ahead. Talk with your family and friends about the best way to remember your loved one.

Allow yourself to be sad. These occasions might have been a time you spent with someone you’ve lost. It’s normal to feel sad that this person is no longer with you. It may help to take some time out for yourself to remember the person you love. You might want to:

  • Find a quiet spot to remember all the good things about the person;
  • Do something that you used to do with that person;
  • Write a letter to the person;
  • Revisit a favorite spot that you shared;
  • Share some of the memories with people who were also close to the person.

It is O.K. to enjoy yourself. It might be hard to celebrate when you’re missing someone you love. It’s not uncommon to have a whole lot of different feelings, like sadness, guilt or excitement. Getting together with family and close friends can be a chance to remember the good times with the person who’s died, and it’s O.K. to relax and have a laugh. Having fun is not necessarily a sign that you miss that person any less.

Look after yourself. This might be a tough time for you, so remember to take care of yourself. Avoid making major decisions until after holidays are over. If possible, treat yourself to something you enjoy doing. Here are some ideas to help you relax:

  • Go to the beach;
  • Go for a walk;
  • Play a sport;
  • Listen to music;
  • Go shopping;
  • Get a massage;
  • Hang out with friends.

Check out the Relaxation fact sheet for more ideas.

Talk to someone. It might be helpful to talk to someone you trust—like a family member, friend or teacher. If you’re finding it hard to cope with day-to-day stuff, it might help to talk to someone like a counselor or other mental health professional. Check out the Get Help section for more information about how a counselor can help and how to find a mental health professional in your area. You can also get information on local mental health professionals from your medical doctor.

If you need to talk to someone immediately, you can call youth helpline Your Life Your Voice at 1-800 448-3000, run by Boys Town for everyone, where trained volunteers are available 24/7 to listen to your concerns.

Avoid bottling stuff up. Getting stuff off your chest is important. Tension can build up if you keep your feelings to yourself, and finding a way to get it out can help you feel better. You may want to talk to someone, write your thoughts down, draw, cry or punch some pillows. Check out the Express yourself fact sheet for more ideas about how to get stuff off your chest.


Some of the information is adapted from the book After Suicide, Help For The Bereaved by Sheila Clark. Published in 1995 by Hill of Content Publishing Company Pty Ltd, Melbourne 3000.

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