Unhappy Holidays: Navigating Loss & Grief

7 Strategies for Getting Through “the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” When You’re Hurting

David Valdes
9 min readDec 22, 2021
Photo: Kindel Media for Pexels

Lights all aglow. Carols filling the air. Endless exhortations to cheer and merriment. If you’re in a happy mental state when the holidays roll around, the joyful sheen on seemingly everything can expand on that happiness. But if you’re wrestling with loss, it can have the opposite effect: isolating you and even deepening your grief.

I’m a Christmas person, always have been. In the best years, I’m a sucker for every tacky lawn display, I start listening to carols the moment Halloween passes, and I’m not above changing my pillow covers for a more reindeer-forward look. But not every year is one of those years. I have experienced holidays after the death of a parent, a divorce, a job loss, the end of a cherished relationship, and sometimes more than one in the same season. When that happens, the holidays feel as much like a burden as a reward.

So how do you get by when “the most wonderful time of the year” isn’t at all?

Accept Grief as It Is

When my mom died, I thought I had grieved her loss and moved on by the time the first Christmas rolled around. I had stopped instinctively calling her on Saturday mornings and I hadn’t…



David Valdes

David Valdes is a Cuban-American author who writes about family, race, and LGBTQ issues. His book Brighter than the Moon releases in January 2023.