Be Gentle With Yourself

Winter Grief | Hansen-Spear Funeral Home - Quincy, Illinois

The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve can be challenging for those who mourn. Whether it is your very first holiday season without your loved one, or your 5th, 10th or 25th…there can be things about this time of year that are simply hard.

Perhaps, grief has brought you to ground. Your spirits and energy are low. You find yourself feeling that decorations, baking, shopping for gifts and wrapping them is just too overwhelming. Add to that the expectations we hold for ourselves and from others can provide a sense of pressure to carry on. There may be an unspoken expectation to “get back to normal,” or to “do what we’ve always done.” Even when inside, you don’t feel like it.

Radical self-care

Instead of moving through all of the same activities, trying to do everything you’ve always done, this may be the year to take a break.

Remember during school we were given permission slips to leave class? Those slips or hall passes gave us permission to go to the nurse, the restroom or sometimes to leave school accompanied by a parent for an appointment. In a sense, the permission slip allowed for us to take care of ourselves or something that we needed to do.

The holiday season may be a time to give yourself a permission slip. If you did, what might you write on it? (You could actually try this by making your own permission slips that read something like “Today, I give myself permission to….”)

Here are some permission slip ideas for the holidays:

Today, I give myself permission to….

  • Participate in activities that honor my sense of loss.
  • Go easy and not try so hard to do it all
  • Remember that I’m mourning and have special needs
  • Let others take the lead on planning and implementing holiday meals
  • Notice my feelings and allow them to be what they are
  • Rest more and do less
  • Pick just the activities that nurture me
  • Remember that grief is not a problem to be solved
  • Tend to my needs with time for quiet, rest, solitude
  • Tend to my needs with time with a friend

This holiday season, give yourself permission to do things differently. You may find that you feel like saying yes to an invitation, only to find that on the day of the event you don’t feel the energy to go. Give yourself permission to call and decline – even at the last minute.

You may find yourself comforted by doing all of the holiday activities you have done in the past. Or you may feel that you’d like to do some of them; bake so the house smells delicious, put up a Christmas tree but no other decorations, give gift cards instead of going shopping. Any and all of these and other choices are available to you this holiday season.

Give yourself permission to listen deeply to your own needs this season. If you are mourning the loss of a loved one, take time to slow down, do less so that you can rest more. And remember that in the future, you may find yourself ready to welcome back all of the activities and traditions of holidays past.


Deb Brandt-Buehler is a certified funeral celebrant, certified creative grief practitioner and professional writer. She works virtually and in-person with individuals and families as they tell their stories of grief and loss. Deb co-authored The Hollowed Heart; Inspiration for Women Awakening from Grief and Loss. You can learn more about Deb and her services at or contact her directly at

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