When Grief and Depression Show Up for the Holidays Part 1

depression and grief for the holidays

When Grief and Depression Show Up for the Holidays Part 1

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? For many people, the holidays are a time of joy and celebration. But for others, they can be a time of great sadness and loneliness.  Depression and grief are two of the most common emotions people feel during the holiday season.  This is especially true for those who have lost a loved one or managing different types of losses in their lives during this time of year.

Some people feel sad and lonely during the holiday season, while others can feel overwhelmed and stressed with the expectations of how this season is meant to be- full of gifts, food, get togethers and festivities. If you are feeling sad or depressed during the holidays, it is important to understand that you are not alone. Millions of people experience sadness or grief during this time of year for varied reasons. For many of us, we may not recognize what it is that is contributing to our feelings of sadness or grief.  Often we might experience losses that go unrecognized.

Grief and Depression

Grief is the natural and universal response to loss. It is the emotional suffering we feel when we are separated from someone or something we loved or valued. Grief is a unique experience for each individual. No two people grieve in exactly the same way.  Grief can be very unpredictable. It can come and go in waves. There may be days when you feel really good and then days when you feel really bad. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  

Grief is often viewed as a single, homogeneous experience. However, there are in fact many different types of grief, each with their own unique characteristics.  Grief can be triggered by the death of a loved one, a relationship break-up, the loss of a job or pet, or any other significant change in our lives.  During the holidays, we might experience various events or experiences that trigger feelings of sadness, loneliness or despair as we become attuned to changes in patterns, traditions or rituals that we once relied on for comfort and joy during this time of year.


Examples of what might trigger feelings of grief and loss during the holiday season include:

  • If a loved one is unable to come home for the holidays due to being away for business, military placement or other obligations keeping them where they are.
  • If a parent or loved one is experiencing memory loss or has a diagnosis of dementia.
  • If a loved one recently passed away.
  • If you are unable to afford items for the holidays that you would like to be able to afford.
  • If you have friends or family that live far away and are at a physical distance.
  • If you are experiencing your own mental health symptoms and are struggling to recreate the holidays as you expect them to be when you are feeling well.
  • If you recently lost your job or experienced a job change, which may be causing some financial stress or insecurities that you had not experienced during previous holidays.
  • If you experienced a recent break-up or loss of friendship that had been a significant aspect of your life.

While we might experience these losses in different ways, there are effective ways to cope with grief and depression during the holiday season.  In our next blog post we will explore effective coping strategies for managing intense feelings of loss and depression during this time of year.

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