Grieving around the holidays is the norm for many, but it’s not just humans who grieve. Jodi Picoult’s “Leaving Time” is one of my favorite books. It’s about a mother-daughter relationship where the mother is an elephant researcher. Already being a huge fan of elephants, reading this book increased my love (/obsession).

Grieving around the holidays

Elephants are known for the close bonds they form with their herd, the immense care of their young, and the capability to feel many of the same emotions that people feel. They feel sadness, love, grief, and compassion. In the elephant research community, they’re known for their grief practices.

Most animals leave the weak behind to die. Instead, elephants become distressed when a herd member is suffering, and they grieve for extended lengths of time. Elephants take time to grieve, and they take their burial process seriously. Even years after an elephant passed, herd members often revisit the burial site, spending days mourning their loss.

Grieving Around the Holidays

We, metaphorically and literally, often revisit the burial site of our loved ones, especially as the holidays come. Everyone experiences a unique grieving process. Some resume normal activities quickly. Others take more time to feel better.

If you’re struggling with grief and loss, you may feel a sense of impending doom as the holidays come. Whether it’s the first holiday without your loved one, or whether it has been years since you lost him/her, the holidays can be trying. Consequently, Getting through the holidays will be tough, almost inevitably. To experience less suffering, you might consider the following:

Some Tips

1. Setting realistic expectations for yourself. You always throw a big New Years Eve bash? Maybe this year you invite fewer people over.

2. Consider what traditions you want to continue or start. It might be comforting to continue long-standing traditions. Although, it could also be incredibly painful to continue them. Knowing what will be helpful and what won’t be may be difficult. Thinking ahead about what new traditions could be commemorative may give you a sense of meaning over the holiday.  For example, lighting a candle in honor of the deceased, playing your loved one’s favorite song, or giving a toast in honor of your loved one during a family meal could become new traditions.

3. Avoid avoiding. While you may not be ready to immerse yourself in the years-long holiday traditions that you’ve been apart of, try to avoid isolating yourself from all plans. Give yourself space to grieve while also pushing yourself. If it feels right to be around loved ones, that’s where you should be.

4. Allow yourself to feel. You might feel joy, guilt, sadness, anger, confusion, or a host of other emotions. Other family members might feel differently than you do;  that might also evoke some emotions. There is no “right” way to grieve. Give yourself space and compassion to notice and experience your emotions.

Surround yourself with loved ones who are, metaphorically, elephants—those that will respect your grieving process and give you time and space to feel whatever you do.

Tacianna Indovina, PhD


Tacianna IndovinaDr. Tacianna Indovina knew that she wanted to be a therapist since she was in high school. From that time, her love and enthusiasm for the healing power of psychotherapy hasn’t wavered. It’s a good thing for our community that Tacianna is as enthusiastic as ever for helping people when they feel overwhelmed, discouraged, and alone.

Through her authenticity, gentle directness, and sense of humor, Tacianna works with you to identify patterns of thinking and behaving that may be making it difficult for you to meet your goals. Tacianna’s easy rapport encourages, validates, challenges, and empowers!

With her down-to-earth and relatable style, Tacianna provides counseling for late adolescents, adults, and couples, to provide support to recover from interpersonal loss and trauma, overcome mood struggles, cope with anxiety, and adjust positively to life transitions. Tacianna adapts her approach to what you want and need, and aims to help you build healthier relationships with yourself and others.

Contact Dr. Tacianna to schedule your free initial consultation today!

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