Not in the Holiday Spirit? That’s Okay.

Dear Georgette:

My father passed away this fall, and my mom is still grieving his loss. They were married for over 50 years. While my husband and I have small children and feel like the holidays should still be a time to celebrate, my mom wants no part of Christmas.

We are struggling to try to figure out what to do. Should we try to force my mom into participating in hopes of helping to lift her spirits? Or is it better to just let her skip the celebrations and festivities this year?

We could really use some advice!



When a Senior Doesn’t Want to Celebrate the Holiday

Dear Lisa:

This certainly is a tough dilemma you are facing. The idea of having your mom sit the holidays out when she is already suffering is probably painful for you. But honoring her wishes might be the best way to help her work through her grief.

50 years of holidays together likely come with many happy memories of the times she and your dad celebrated the season. So it is understandable that this first Christmas alone will be tough.

Let your mom know that it is okay to forego putting up a tree or hosting a holiday celebration. And let her know you and your family understand she is struggling.

My suggestions to help those grieving during the holidays:

  • The first year after a loss is very difficult. Getting past all those first milestones first anniversary, first Christmas, first birthday is tough. If your mom hasn’t already done so, getting involved with a support group can make a big difference. She will have the opportunity to talk through her struggles with people who are experiencing similar struggles. Local hospice organizations can help her connect with one of these groups.

  • Host a family dinner at your house or bring the dinner to your mom, but without all the fuss of the holidays. It will provide the entire family with an opportunity to be together and support one another through this difficult time.

  • Consider creating a scrapbook or video of happy times for your mom and family to enjoy together. Finding meaning in memories, also known as Reminiscence therapy, is proven to be a powerful way of helping bring back joy. Just be careful to gauge your mom’s reaction to make sure this isn’t making her feel worse.

My final suggestion is to learn more about grieving and senior depression. As time goes by, you will want to make sure your mother’s grief hasn’t turned into depression.

I wish you and your family the best in working through this very tough time.

Kindest Regards,