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  • Writer's pictureRachel Kodanaz

Navigating Conversations Around Grief and the Holidays

Most conversations between two or more people are casual, engaging for the purpose of exchanging ideas, thoughts or emotions. In most cases, these discussions are straightforward and timely based on current events, shared experiences or future planning. However, navigating and often tiptoeing around conversations during the holiday season is essential to remain conscientious of those grieving the loss of a loved one and being sensitive to their needs.

Embracing and celebrating the holiday season following a loss can be a bit overwhelming. While you may want to engage in some planned activities, the people around you may push harder than desired to engage you in festivities. Their actions are from a place of caring with the ultimate desire to be inclusive. Although at times their eagerness to help may cause them to stumble in conversation, try to embrace their enthusiasm. There is a natural tendency to shy away from activity or interaction as a grieving individual during the holidays. That’s because these times magnify the emptiness and sadness of the loss, resulting in loneliness and isolation. Regardless of the reason, your friends and family members struggle to interact and often make inappropriate comments or tend to minimize your loss in hopes of easing the pain.

When navigating conversations around grief and the holidays, it’s not about what others say but how you react to what others say. Of course, people mean well, especially your family and friends; but how their comments are interpreted might create an emotional reaction.

The holiday season is a time of celebration, family gatherings, sharing and spending time with others. Those grieving often have to guide a conversation to balance the joy of being with others with the sadness of a loss. By directing the conversation, you can be true to your own needs rather than those of the people around you. Be sure to prepare yourself for emotional setbacks and becoming defensive with those you feel are less sensitive to your situation. Find the balance of old and new by sticking to what works best for you. Be inclusive by sharing stories of your loved one, preparing their favorite foods and creating new memories.

Most importantly, be sure to navigate the conversations by allowing yourself to feel your emotions; and try not to cover up or stifle how you feel to please others, whether in person or at virtual engagements. Be sure to define what is best for you by planning ahead and communicating your plans well in advance. Focus on what you have control over rather than being hurt or emotionally displaced when caught off guard. Honor the memories of your loved one by including them in the festivities in any manner you feel comfortable. Set boundaries and communicate with your family how much time you want to be together and the details of the gathering. Be sure to prepare yourself for a range of emotions – the most straightforward comments can set off an array of sadness, guilt, loneliness and resentment.

Always remember, the most important person is YOU, so take care of yourself first. Enjoy the holiday season!

Rachel Kodanaz is a heart-minded professional helping her audiences to Embrace Life’s Challenges. Rachel has been speaking passionately to national audiences of all sizes for over 20 years, addressing all aspects of change, growth, and acceptance that come with life’s transitions. She is also available for virtual one-on-one consulting to help individuals with their current challenges.

Rachel has published numerous articles and has appeared on Good Morning America. Her books Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time, best-selling Living with Loss One Day at a Time, and Grief in the Workplace have received international acclaim. Learn more at

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