Grief Journaling Prompts to Find Wisdom for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Other Winter Holidays

By Heather Stang, MA, C-IAYT

Posted: November 28, 2023

Even if Thanksgiving felt like a disaster, it holds valuable lessons for us. As we approach Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, we can use these experiences as a source of wisdom. Remember, navigating the holidays while grieving is all about trial and error. It's through these trials that we discover what truly works for us, carving a path of healing and understanding for the holidays ahead.

As the holiday season unfolds, those of us navigating the path of grief often find ourselves at a crossroads of emotions. The festive atmosphere, marked by joy and celebration, can feel starkly contrasted with the journey of loss and remembrance we are on. This time of year is not just about external festivities; it's also an opportunity for internal exploration and understanding.

Grief during the holidays is a trial and error process, a delicate balancing act of honoring our past, experiencing our present, and tentatively stepping towards the future. Reflective writing is a powerful way to turn the challenges we face during Thanksgiving grief into wisdom for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or other holiday gatherings. It's a process where we can openly explore our feelings, understanding both the hard moments and the times of comfort.

This kind of writing helps us see clearly what parts of the holidays are tough and what parts help us feel better. It guides us in making choices for upcoming celebrations. Reflective writing isn't just about getting through the holidays; it's about finding a way to approach them with care and understanding of what we really need, whether it’s creating new traditions or just allowing ourselves to feel our grief.

In this way, our journal becomes a guide, helping us navigate the holiday season with kindness and awareness.

Transforming Winter Holiday Grief Into Wisdom 

The journaling prompts below draw on the Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy practice known as integration meditation. This technique invites you to reflect deeply on a specific experience, during which you mindfully revisit and examine the moments that stand out.

As you delve into these reflections, focus on what resonates with you — whether it's a feeling, a thought, or a sensation. This isn't just about looking back; it's about understanding and learning from these experiences. By doing so, you empower yourself to make more informed and wise choices in the future.

These prompts are here to guide you in this reflective process, helping you use your past insights to navigate upcoming holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa with more awareness and self-compassion. This practice will help you:

  • Recalibrate for Future Holidays: By reflecting on what aspects of the holiday season are comforting or triggering, we can make more informed decisions about how to approach future celebrations.
  • Acknowledge Your Strengths: Journaling allows us to recognize our resilience and the steps we've taken towards healing, no matter how small.
  • Being Kind to Your Vulnerability: It encourages us to approach our vulnerabilities with kindness and understanding, recognizing that grief is not a linear process.
  • Enhance Self-Awareness: Writing helps in identifying our emotional triggers and coping mechanisms, fostering greater self-awareness.

Reflective Writing Practice for Holiday Grief

  1. Thanksgiving Reflection:
    • Think back to your Thanksgiving holiday. Describe a moment that felt particularly meaningful or difficult. How did you navigate this moment? Remember, it's okay if things didn't go as planned – your response to challenges is part of your journey.
  2. Learning from Experience: 
    • Reflect on what aspects of the Thanksgiving holiday worked well for you. Were there specific rituals, conversations, or self-care practices that brought you comfort? Conversely, were there moments that felt particularly challenging? Consider what these experiences teach you about your needs and boundaries.
  3. Self-Compassion Exercise:
    • Imagine a friend going through a similar experience as yours during the holidays. What compassionate advice would you offer them? Now, try to offer that same kindness and understanding to yourself. Write down these compassionate thoughts and remind yourself that it’s okay to prioritize your wellbeing.
  4. Planning for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other Gatherings:
    • Looking ahead to the Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other winter holiday, what adjustments or plans can you make based on your Thanksgiving experience? Think about how to incorporate self-care, boundaries, and maybe new traditions that resonate with your current feelings. How can you honor your journey through grief while engaging in the holiday spirit in a way that feels right for you?

Embrace the Winter Holidays with an Open Mind and Heart

Remember, it's okay if the holidays don't look like they used to. Grieving is an ever-evolving process, and how we handle holidays can change too. It's about finding what feels right for you at this moment in your journey. Whether it's embracing new traditions, modifying old ones, or even choosing to step back from certain festivities, it's all valid and important in your path towards healing.

Online Grief Support 

If this practice resonates with you, then join me for a journey of continuous growth and self-discovery. Every week of the year Awaken Online Grief Support Members delve into the transformative practices of integration and reflective writing, helping you to explore your experiences and emotions in depth. 

This isn't just a one-time exercise; it's an ongoing opportunity to gain insights, develop resilience, and make wiser choices in every aspect of your life. Whether you're navigating the complexities of grief or seeking a deeper understanding of yourself, our supportive community is here to guide and accompany you.

Take the first step towards a more mindful and empowered you — become a part of our journey today.


Heather Stang, MA, C-IAYT

About the author

Heather Stang, M.A. is the author of Mindfulness & Grief and the guided journal, From Grief To Peace. She is the creator of the Mindfulness & Grief System that is featured in the Handbook of Grief Therapies (2023) and is the founder of Awaken, a mindfulness-based online grief support group. Heather also hosts the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, and offers mindfulness-based grief support online through her organization, the Mindfulness & Grief Institute. She holds a Masters degree in Thanatology (Death, Dying, and Bereavement) from Hood College in Maryland, and is a certified Yoga Therapist. She currently lives in Falling Waters, WV.

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