Holidays Suicide loss survivors of suicide loss

Handling the Holidays After Suicide Loss

Large cream-colored stuffed teddy bear dressed in festive holiday garb holding a stuffed brown bear cub.
Holiday Bear Holding Her Cub

Handling the Holidays

It’s important to remember that you can survive the pain. There may be times when you don’t think it’s possible, but it is.

Red and gold ornaments on branches with white lights

Do What You Think Will Be Comforting for You


Struggling with Holiday Grief After Suicide Loss

Do what you think will be comfortable for you.
Remember, you can always choose to do things
differently next time.

AFSP, Surviving a Suicide Loss Resource and Healing Guide

Suggestions and Ways to Cope With Grief

Holidays bring expectations of merriment, traditions rich in meanings, and memories of past holidays. When you’ve lost your child to suicide, holidays can be impossible. Suggestions and ways to cope with grief are plentiful. Some ideas for moving through the holidays have helped me.

This I know-each holiday season can be gotten through, even in the midst of acute grief, even when the pain feels overwhelming, even when tears come unexpectedly.

Star tray holding 2 cups of holiday drinks with oranges and cinnamon sticks as garnish.

When you lose someone special, your world lacks its celebratory qualities. Holidays magnify that loss.

David Kessler

Dealing With the Pain

How even to explain that I lose my son all over again at the holidays. Tinsel and ornaments, colorful lights and candles, gingerbread cookies and family gatherings all bring memories both beautiful and sad.

The sadness deepens and the loneliness can feel isolating. The need for support may be the greatest during the holidays. Pretending you don’t hurt and/or it isn’t a harder time of the year is just not the truth for you. But you can – and will – get through the holidays. Rather than avoiding the feelings of grief, lean into them. It is not the grief you want to avoid, it is the pain. No one can take that pain away, but grief is not just pain, grief is love.

David Kessler, Grief and the Holidays, Dealing with the Pain

Surviving Suicide Loss

Surviving a Suicide Loss Resource and Healing Guide offers these ideas for surviving suicide loss at the holidays:

Think about your family’s holiday traditions; consider
whether you want to continue them or create some
new ones
• Remember that family members may feel differently about
continuing to do things the way they’ve been done in the
past; try to talk openly with each other about
your expectations
• Consider whether you want to be with your family and
friends for the holiday, or whether it would be more healing
for you to be by yourself or go away (this year)
• Keep in mind that sometimes the anticipation of an event
can be more difficult than the event itself
• If you find it comforting to talk about your loved one, let
your family and friends know that; tell them not to be afraid
to mention your loved one’s name
• Some survivors have found the following ritual helpful for a
variety of occasions:
— Light two candles, and then blow one out; explain
that the extinguished candle represents those we’ve
lost, while the one that continues to burn represents
those of us who go on despite our loss and pain
— Simply leave the one candle burning (you can put it
off to one side) for the duration of the holiday meal
or event; the glowing flame acts as a quiet reminder
of those who are missing
• Above all, bear in mind that there is no “right” way to handle
holidays, anniversaries, or birthdays; you and your family
may decide to try several different approaches before
finding one that feels best for you

AFSP, Surviving a Suicide Loss Resource and Healing Guide

“Know you can survive; you may not think so, but you can.”

AFSP, Surviving a Suicide Loss Resource and Healing Guide


You are not alone. There is no universal time frame for healing, but you will move forward from the place where you are now.

The AFSP Loss and Healing Council

*New Holiday Grief Series*

“Handling Holiday Grief After a Child’s Suicide”

Brown Bear Plush Toy

Holiday Grief Series-Handling Holiday Grief After A Child’s Suicide

Celebrating the Holidays “Mother and Child”-A beautiful Christmas carol once upon a blue-sky moon. How much I wish my heart could still sing “Silent Night.” Now only “Mother without Child.” Still a mother but having lost her child. Still a holiday season of expectations. A season rich with symbolic meaning. A season of faith. A […]

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