HOLIDAYS - Navigating the Emotional Minefield

When we’re missing someone, we tend to bump into them everywhere. Especially during the holidays.

This season surfaces our losses and flings them in our faces. It's hard, and can be painful and confusing.


“I Miss Everything!”

“What do I miss?” Andrea asked. “Everything! I miss everything. Everything reminds me of Aaron.”

“It doesn’t matter where I go or what I do, he’s gone. On top of that, he loved Christmas. I see him everywhere this time of year. Grief hits me in the face over and over and over again,” she continued.

Reminders are everywhere. Decorations, holiday traditions, songs, places, fragrances, people – the list goes on and on. Anything can trigger a memory, especially around Christmas.


Holidays: an emotional minefield

You’re walking through an emotional minefield every moment, not knowing where the next grief hit is going to come from. To say this is challenging is a gross understatement.

Holiday grief can be incredibly exhausting. But it also trumpets how special your loved one was and is to you. She or he is everywhere. Of course. You loved them (and love them still!).

Walk carefully. Breathe deeply. One mine at a time.


Watch those expectations

Be sure to watch out for the minefield of unspoken expectations.

We all have expectations – of ourselves, of others, of the world, and of the holidays. They can be incredibly sneaky, and even add to our grief. Unmasking and identifying them is important.

I’m not much on list-making, but I’ve found that writing down expectations can be incredibly freeing. Grab your phone, laptop, or a sheet of paper and give it a try.

  • How do I anticipate these holidays will go?
  • What do I expect of myself in the next two weeks?
  • What do I expect of my family during this season?
  • What do I expect of others around me?

Be as thorough and as specific as you can.


What’s realistic and healthy for YOU these holidays?

Now, go back over your list of expectations and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this expectation realistic and healthy for me given what I’m going through? (If not, mark through it and release yourself!)
  • Is what I’m expecting of others realistic and healthy given the current situation? Do they know I’m expecting this of them? (If not, mark through that one and release yourself!)
  • Do I WANT to do that? Do I WANT to do that with THEM?
  • What do I WANT to do, how, when, and with whom?

So much of healthy grieving has to do with taking good care of yourself. This honors your loved one, too. And ultimately taking care of you expresses love for all those you care about, for it trickles down to them too.


You can do this.

The holiday grief minefield is real. It’s tough, and unpredictable. But you can navigate it well.

  • Be nice to yourself.
  • Take care of you.
  • Let the memories come (you won’t be able to stop them anyway!).
  • Include your loved one in the holidays and honor them with your grief.
  • Be aware of those sneaky expectations. Unmask them. Evaluate them.
  • You get to choose what you do, how, when, and with whom. 

Here’s a grief affirmation: 

“Everything seems to remind me of you. I’ll learn to treasure each memory.”

Yes, reminders are everywhere. This can be difficult, but as you grieve you’ll find yourself treasuring the memories more and more.


Adapted from the Bestseller Heartbroken: Healing from the Loss of a Spouse (USA Best Book Awards Finalist, National Indie Excellence 

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About the Author

Gary Roe is an author, speaker, and chaplain with Hospice Brazos Valley. He is the author of the award-winning bestsellers Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child, Please Be Patient, I'm Grieving, HEARTBROKEN: Healing from the Loss of a Spouse, and Surviving the Holidays without You and the co-author (with New York Times Bestseller Cecil Murphey) of Saying Goodbye: Facing the Loss of a Loved One. Visit him at

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