Grief and the Holidays

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by Gwen Russo-Uss, GC-C

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when we are supposed to be filled with holiday cheer. Why is it that then that so many people struggle with the holidays as being anything but “the happiest time of the year”? 

This time of year often brings a tremendous amount of stress, sadness and anxiety. Most think it’s the holidays themselves that are responsible for their stress and discontentment. This is actually not true. All the holidays do is serve to exacerbate what is already inside. What’s inside? Years upon years of unresolved grief from accumulated losses people have experienced and are not even aware they are carrying.

There are losses where a person actually loses tangible items. They lose people (death, divorce, moving), houses, pets, money, jobs and health. They also lose intangible things, like trust, love, connection, security, hopes and dreams, specifically if they have grown up in a family where there was abuse, substance use or neglect. Grief is emotional, and with each loss there are feelings. People store them inside, instead of processing them, when their bodies were not designed to hold emotions in that way. Hear this: Nothing good comes from pent up emotions.  We are just waiting to blow.

So, now enter the holidays. Whose house will everyone be going to? Who will begin drinking (or over drinking) and start an argument? How about seeing empty chairs of loved ones who have died? What about the financial stress of having to buy gifts? Don’t forget the crowds at the stores. Who has been divorced and is having to split their time with their kids and the ex? The thing is the stress of the holidays are only a fraction of why people feel so overwhelmed. All the holidays do is raise the temperature on the pent up emotions of losses already inside that have been brewing since they occurred.

The truth is people can’t change the fact that holidays exist. They also can’t change the past and what losses they have experienced in their lives. They can, however, make the decision to take actions to change how they react to the events from their past. The process is not nearly as daunting as it may sound, and it doesn’t even have to take very long when the right tools are provided from a trained grief specialist. Seek the help and take the action. It would be interesting to see how the holidays (and life in general) could be when one finally begins to heal their heart.

Gwen Russo-Uss, GC-C, of Hopeful Heart Solutions, is an Advanced Grief Recovery Method Specialist and life coach. For more information, call 631-872-0294 or visit

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