Back to homepage

Facing Christmas When Remembering the Loss Hurts

Counseling for holiday grief with Carolina Counseling Fayetteville NC, grief counseling after a loss Fayetteville NC, grief counseling near me, therapy for grief during holidays Fayetteville NC, Counseling for overcoming grief Fayetteville

Facing Christmas When Remembering the Loss Hurts


How do I face Christmas with the grief I feel in my heart?” It isn’t an easy question, but it has answers.


Aside from the spiritual meaning that Christmas has, it is always associated with family and fun. It is that time of the year when families come together for lavish spreads in homes adorned with glittery emblems of the season – Christmas trees, wreaths, Santa in his sleigh, stockings, and gifts. This is why Christmas can be among the most painful reminders of what you lost.

There’s a myriad more of memories with the person who will not be there anymore this season. Though the traditions live and will continue, this Christmas will be different. As you put up the tree and bedeck it with ornaments, old memories will be revived. As you shop and wrap gifts, you must become accustomed to buying and wrapping one less gift. This Christmas, there will also be an “empty chair” around the festive Christmas table.

Sad as it is, Christmas will come, even when you are grieving. Unpleasant emotions will build up as the holidays draw closer and you become overwhelmed with the numerous tasks before the big events of the season. What can you do to face the holidays, even when your heart is throbbing with pain?


Understanding the “Anniversary Reaction”

If you think you have gotten over your loss, the recurrence of the pain may come as a surprise. This early, know that as the holiday ambiance increases or “thickens” as the holiday draws closer, your grief can come back, like it just happened the day before. Mixed with all the tasks on your holiday checklist, the pain can be exacerbated. Do not be surprised. You are experiencing the “anniversary reaction.”

The anniversary reaction is alternatively called the “anniversary grief.”  “During the holiday season, symptoms of grief that have previously relented might suddenly return, and it can seem as though one is actively grieving again,” says Good Therapy. According to psychologist Dr. Therese Rando, readjustment into a life minus the lost loved one is necessary, and this is felt strongest on the first year following the loss.

Anniversary reactions wane through the years, but not when you have “complicated grief.” Thus, do not ignore strong emotions and the signs and symptoms. Some of these grief symptoms that may recur this Christmas are “anxiety, anger, and difficulty sleeping, including waking up early or having trouble falling asleep. Sadness, crying, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and focusing, and loss of interest in social activities can also be common.” There can also be mood shifts and the return of painful, past celebrations.


The Truths About Holiday Grief

Grief can scare you. It can shake your faith and cause you to turn away from people and things that may remind you of your loss. It can interfere with your everyday life. If it is taking a downward turn, its symptoms can also put your life on hold.


You can better accept grief and face the holidays when you understand grief. Here are some facts about it:


  1. Grief doesn’t know time and space. Memories come back through the senses. The smell, sight or sound of a Christmas reminder – the smell of the holiday kitchen, the familiar carols you sing with loved ones, the cheerful colors and shimmering lights – is enough to bring back the memories of the people you lost and the pain in your heart. Grief can strike back, even when it is the merriest season on the planet and wherever you are.


  1. The return of grief is part of healing. Do not fear grief. It is an important process in healing. Its return is a sign that you are on your way to recovery. Feeling the hurt is better than escaping it. In fact, pretending it isn’t the holidays or not participating in the family preparation for the season to mask the emotions can only extend your anguish. Let yourself grieve. If you wish to feel better without forcing to numb the pain, you can see a counselor.


  1. The depth and complexity of your grief are personal/unique. There are several factors that can influence your grief. If you have a special relationship with the loved one, the loss is recent, or the loss happened unexpectedly or violently, the pain can be more intense. The newness of the loss means that your family isn’t the complete family that you once had. A loved one is missing. So, family-oriented occasions can magnify the loss and the pain.


  1. There is no right way to grieve. Remember that your anguish is personal. You will be responding to the loss in a unique way because your grief is your own. The other family members will also grieve in their own way. The uniqueness of your reactions is natural, but all these can trigger misunderstandings in the family. Proactively seeking family counseling can help your family face Christmas after a painful loss.


  1. Grief can breed other emotions. The pain that comes with losing someone dear can usher other unwanted emotions. You can feel guilt if you think you were partly responsible for the demise of the loved one or because you seem to be healing faster than the other family members. You can feel anger if the death was preventable. Desolation and hopelessness can overcome you with the knowledge that nothing can change the circumstance any more. With Christmas, all these emotions and more can leave you vulnerable to depression and anxiety.


Hope and Help Await


“The deeper truth of loss is that we are never truly finished with grieving when someone significant to us dies. However, there are many ways to live with the loss without hurting from it,” says Good Therapy. You can light a candle, say a prayer or take long walks. You can listen to the music you both loved or that had special meanings for the two of you. Do the things that can comfort you, even when it may seem odd to others. If there is one thing that can greatly help you, it is to love yourself a little more.

Rather than wallow in grief, seek hope and help. When you are grieving, you may turn to negative emotions and be unkind to yourself. Know that grief’s worse form is when it is combined with guilt. If you love yourself, you will not let yourself anguish because of guilt. You will also not allow anger or excessive sadness to take over the better part of you. Instead, you must care for yourself. Start by talking to a counselor. At your worst this season, find hope and help from a counselor/therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC.  

When you have recently lost someone important or loved in your life, remembering the past Christmases or holidays is often bittersweet. While holding on to the memories can help you feel good, it can also sow seeds of fear for what is to come this holiday. The first one after the loss is going to be the most difficult. Recovering from grief isn’t as simple as “forgetting and moving on.” It will entail an ongoing adjustment throughout life. Be hopeful that healing will come. Along the way, receiving help and counseling from a caring counselor independently contracted with CCS – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC can help you adjust better and without being overwhelmed by guilt. Call today to schedule your first appointment.

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Fayetteville, NC (North)

Counties: Cumberland, Bladen and Sampson Counties, NC

Areas: Fayetteville NC, Ft Bragg NC, Pope Field NC, Sliver City NC, Linden NC, Bunnlevel NC, Erwin NC, Dundarrach NC, Rex NC,and Wade, NC

Zip Codes: 28311, 28395, 28390, 28356

Counseling Information

How Do I Set Up my FIRST Appointment?

  • Call: 910-636-0011 (Fastest way to schedule)
  • Text: 910-308-3291 (Reply will be via phone)
  • Click here and use our Contact Form (You must include your phone number, because replies will only be made by telephone to ensure security/privacy)
  • Call or Text for your New Patient Appointment Anytime!
  • Appointment scheduling for NEW clients: Mon-Fri
  • Established/Standing Appointments are made directly with your therapist!
  • Referrals: MOST beneficiaries do NOT need a Referral!

Other Contact Info

If you have a compliment, concern or comments please contact:

Contact Management:
click here

If you need to speak specifically to the owner
Click here and use our Contact Form

Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office, Fayetteville, NC

422 McArthur Road, Suite 2
FayettevilleNC 28311

Our Mailing Address:

PO BOX 9909
Fayetteville, NC 28311

Choose your Therapist

  • Becky Clark, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Anxiety, Depression, Individuals, Couples, Geriatrics, Criminal Justice, Stress Management, Loss and Grief related to death, disability, divorce, deployment, “empty nest”, retirement and other major life transitions
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare, and Cash

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Fayetteville, NC