64 tips for grieving through the winter blues

Coping with Grief / Coping with Grief : Litsa Williams

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Weather can have a real impact on mood and coping, whether you like it or not.  There are those of you who love the dark and cold and snow, I know.  I can't relate, but I know you exist.  For you, this post may seem completely unnecessary.  But for the rest of us, getting through the fall and winter months is tough, even without grief.  Layer loss on top of that and it can complicate matters tremendously.


The problem with waiting for winter to talk about winter is that, by the time it comes, it has already started zapping motivation and energy.  A while back Eleanor wrote a post about why winter is the worst for grievers.  You may want to check that out for more info on why winter can be so tough.  Today we are focusing less on the 'why' and more on the quick tips for what you can do.  Planning is crucial and it needs to start now, while the sun is still shining, so you are emotionally prepped when the darkness and cold hit.  These are just a few of our ideas for coping with the winter blues, so please keep the list going by adding your own in the comments!

Oh, PS, we know 64 tips is a lot.  It might feel a little overwhelming.  But people are different, needs are different, what works for one person doesn't work at all for another person.  So 64 tips it is.

  1. Write a list of winter activities you enjoy, so you can refer to it when the hibernation funk sets in (some ideas coming below).
  2. Write a list of indoor projects you want to accomplish this winter, to keep you motivated and inspired (some ideas coming below).
  3. Create a scrapbook or memory book in honor of your loved one.
  4. Start working on the memorial or legacy project you have been wanting to do (a memorial celebration, scholarship fund, memorial walk, etc).
  5. Make a list of people you have lost touch with who you want to reach out to by phone, email or social media.
  6. Make a plan to start sorting through your loved one's belongings if you have been putting it off and want to do it.
  7. Go through and organize, scan, print, etc old photographs (of your loved one or otherwise).
  8. Set some TV boundaries - some TV is a great, healthy escape.  Too much TV can become a fall/winter hibernation problem.
  9. Make a list of shows and movies you really want to watch, so when you are watching TV it is things you really enjoy/value and not just mindless channel surfing.
  10. Stock up on puzzles.
  11. Stock up on books.
  12. Stock up on materials for arts, crafts, etc.
  13. Stock up on games.
  14. If winter really gets you down, consider a light box designed for seasonal affective disorder.
  15. Sign up for a class at a local community college, community center, or library to keep you motivated and get you out of the house.
  16. Sign up for an online class (we have some grief courses here and the internet is filled with TONS of other courses on anything you can think of!).
  17. Start scheduling regular get-togethers with good friends or family for coffee or dinner.
  18. Consider volunteering somewhere meaningful to you or your loved one.
  19. If you can afford it, get a really good warm coat and boots that will make it a little easier to face the cold when motivation is low.
  20. Plan for indoor exercise options that you enjoy, if you know you won't get outdoors to workout.  Consider DVDs, YouTube videos, or a home exercise machine.
  21. Try not to cancel plans.  Sometimes you have to, for self-care, but be careful when it becomes a pattern.
  22. If it is in the budget, plan a mid-winter vacation somewhere warm and sunny to give yourself a break and something to look forward to.
  23. Join a book club (email us if you want to join the WYG online book club).
  24. Join an in-person support group.  (Read our considerations about groups here)
  25. Join an online support group. (Again, read our considerations about groups here).
  26. Start a blog (or keep blogging!).
  27. Start journaling (or keep journaling!).
  28. Make meal plans to try to keep your eating on track.
  29. Make healthy grocery lists and stick to them, to avoid filling the house with junk comfort food.
  30. Challenge yourself to learn to cook and bake, especially healthy meals, if your normal go-to is microwave meals or carry out.
  31. If it is your first winter filling winter "roles" your loved one used to fill, get prepared before the need arises.
  32. Do you know where the snow shovel, sidewalk salt, ice scraper, snowblower, etc are and how to use them?  If not, plan in advance who can teach you or do it for you when needed.
  33. Do you know how to light/start your furnace?  If not, determine who you can ask for support in advance.
  34. Are you able to get winter clothes out of an attic/basement, etc?  If not, determine who you can ask for support in advance.
  35. Do you know how to put on snow tires or tire chains on your car?  If not, determine who you can ask for support in advance
  36. Plan for who will fill holiday roles, like shopping, decorating, and meal preparation.
  37. Keep alcohol in check.  If you drink, set reasonable limits and stick to them.
  38. Get outside for a little bit when it is sunny, even if it cold.  Sunlight helps you physically and psychologically.
  39. Keep a daily gratitude journal with at least one gratitude a day, so you can focus on some of the good things about living in the cold winter months.
  40. Open your blinds and curtains during the day to let in as much natural light as possible.
  41. Trim back tree branches that are blocking light from windows.
  42. Use a light alarm to wake up in the morning.
  43. Make a list of outside-the-house indoor activities you enjoy to refer to in the winter when you are struggling with ideas or motivation.  Some suggestions are:
  44. Go to a museum.
  45. Go to a play.
  46. Go to a concert.
  47. Go to a local lecture.
  48. Go to a movie.
  49. Join a rec indoor winter sports team, like basketball, indoor soccer, indoor lacrosse, etc.
  50. Make a list of outside-the-house outdoor activities you enjoy to refer to in the winter when you are struggling with ideas or motivation.  Some suggestions are:
  51. Go ice skating.
  52. Go skiing, snow tubing, or snowboarding.
  53. Go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
  54. Go snowmobiling.
  55. Ask a friend for support if you are struggling with motivation by asking them to join you in one of the above activities for the company and to make you less likely to cancel.
  56. Listen to music, specifically music that cheers you up and boosts your mood.  Start making playlists now!
  57. Keep to a good sleep routine, going to bed and getting up at the same time as often as possible.
  58. Make evening plans right after work, so you are less likely to fall into the trap of going home, losing motivation from the dark and cold, and canceling.
  59. Be self-aware about external factors that are impacting your mood.  Does watching the news get you down? Skip it.  Does social media make you feel connected and positive?  Then get online! Does it make you feel frustrated, negative or annoyed? Then skip it or limit it.
  60. Start to learn a new language through a class, software or online.
  61. Learn how to meditate through a class, online guided meditations, or an app.
  62. If you are struggling to keep your head above water, talk to a therapist who can help with your individual needs.
  63. Be honest about the impact of the seasons on mood, even if the seasons have never been a challenge before.  If you felt like you were finally having more good days than bad in your grief and suddenly you are having more bad days than good, consider whether the weather is a factor and if some of the above might help.
  64. Cut yourself some slack.  There will be days you don't manage a single thing on this list, and that's okay.  You will have the chance to try again tomorrow.
  65. Like articles about grief and tips for coping?  Sign up to subscribe and get a weekly email with our latest posts right to your inbox.   

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20 Comments on "64 tips for grieving through the winter blues"

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  1. Theresa  January 22, 2023 at 4:22 pm Reply

    My husband died January 4 of this year. I can’t get the last few days of his life out of my mind. I keep reliving every moment. I told him it was ok. That i’d be ok. I told him to go to heaven and wait for me. I told him send me signs that he was near. We did everything together. We were together 32 years. I know someday I’ll be ok but for now every living second of my life is torture. I miss him terribly and so heartbroken.
    Thanks for reading 💔

  2. Sue  January 17, 2023 at 2:55 pm Reply

    Maybe I missed it but adopting a pet can be a comforting thing to do and another life to focus on. Dogs especially get us outside and moving. They also help create interactions with others. Hiking with dogs, training classes, joining breed-specific groups can all help with the isolation we feel after loss. Pets can be a lot of work and expensive at times but fostering is also a great way to volunteer AND get the fuzzy companionship instead of a long commitment.
    My dogs have ‘saved’ me more than once over the past 10 years. Perhaps this might be helpful to someone else…..

  3. Isabella  June 18, 2021 at 3:22 am Reply

    Winter is very challenging with the constant cold and limited outdoor activities. I prefer not to step out. But anyways Great tips fs gonna try em out.

  4. Pauline  January 9, 2019 at 1:06 pm Reply

    My husband died 7wks ago and I feel totally lost .We were together for 35 yrs and have no children .
    I have been blessed to have the support of my girlfriend and her husband but I find It really difficult being the odd one out cas it was always the four of us.
    I have been going day by day and it is so hard without him.
    I know this is selfish but I wish it would of been me to go instead of him because he was so outgoing and personable . People loved having him around and he made me so confident when I was wth him.
    I know he would be strong enough to get through it.

    • Diane  January 21, 2023 at 11:04 pm Reply

      I can totally relate. I was only with my husband 26 years. We have 4 kids and I love them with everything in me. We lost him june 8 2020. I’m trying so hard for our kids but thing is they have their own life. They are thriving college & job. Our youngest is 18 graduating this year. I try to be happy but nothing helps at the end of day my heart is forever broken. No he’d want me to move on enjoy life he always did except the last 6 months fighting very aggressive cancer. It’s just been soo difficult and I want to be be better. I don’t talk about him much cuz I don’t want sympathy for losing my husband, I just want to feel normal again. We have been thru so much but with him at my side we fought cancer, bone marrow transplant, house in fire and everything we had including all our memories/pictures, open heart surgery, back surgery he was truly my strength we got thru everything together.. This loss of him I feel totally lost nothing I like anymore hobbies etc I have no interest in anything. I work 2 jobs and when I’m not at work I just want to be totally alone off to myself. Many have called me a strong woman for all we been thru and I feel like Ii have no strength because what they see isn’t who I am anymore. I’m just a shell. I honestly just am trying to pass the time until one day I don’t. Which is honestly so selfish and horrible of me I have 4 kids but I feel if they keep seeing me cry it just brings them down. So I try to cry at night alone so it don’t cause them pain. I feel horrible that I watch like ID and like unsolved mysteries and fantasies it would happen to me.I honestly don’t believe id even fight them. I am trying so hard hoping something will change. That just it I feel even worse for having thoughts like that cuz I love my kids they were my best accomplishments and also real true loves of mine. I’m embarrassed by these feelings I’m ashamed I guess I was just a better mom with him by my side. Please if anyone could help please tell me how do I fix me????

  5. Brian Cudnik  January 9, 2019 at 8:57 am Reply

    For me, it does not end with the holidays. Yesterday when I went shopping for a few things I realized this is about the time I usually pick out a birthday card for Mom, whose birthday is later this month. Being the “glutton for punishment” that I am sometimes, I go to the greeting cards section and found “the perfect” card, but since teleportation to heaven is beyond current technology I promptly left it and went to the next task before things went south. January 24 is Mom’s birthday, followed by my parents’ anniversary two days later; then February 21 marks 2 years since she passed. But I have the advantage of Houston’s climate where warm days happen regularly, minimizing the winter time blahs. On many occasions Mom “threatened” to move to Houston from Cleveland Ohio when the weather got cold, but my mother in law, who died last April, is probably sharing her experience of living her last 2-1/2 years in Houston after moving down from Southeast Alaska as they both catch up on things in heaven…

  6. Garry  January 8, 2019 at 2:13 pm Reply

    Debbie -October 2016 said it so well. I lost my wife 5 months ago and life has now become a waiting game to die. I find for sure winter much easier as in upstate NY everyone burrows in for 3 months of the dark-gray-cold winter dark ages. Its fine with me as I find more comfort in darkness and quiet to be with only my thoughts. I am dreading when life awakens at spring and all the frolic and fun for everyone else starts up. It is then I fear most right now. The holidays were tough and got through somehow- put on weight-not active- cancel Dr appts, make new ones, Cancel again.. I too loved winter- now I cant stand it but I know I will hate when life comes calling for everyone else around me in the spring. As for those that stopped asking because you turned them down? If they dont understand-too bad. Didnt like being 3rd wheel in high school and after 37 years of marriage? NO THANKS! Its so easy when you have your spouse for the others ..let them try and see what life would be the moment you wake up and realize your spouse is gone for good! Yes my friend in a game of waiting to die(at 64!).

    • Alison  January 22, 2019 at 8:19 am Reply

      I have been feeling badly for you since I read this. I am in somewhat similar circumstances, but due to other things I am reacting differently. I have been praying for you since I read this and asked my church to pray for you, too. I hope you are able to feel better soon.

    • Nancie  January 27, 2019 at 2:52 pm Reply

      I understand exactly what you feel. I always feel that way when spring rolls around. I live in New York State, too.

    • Jennifer  December 27, 2021 at 12:17 am Reply

      You said it so well. A game of waiting to die. I feel I’ve been left with a broken life. A half life. I still feel joy, I can smile and see the beauty and value in the word but it’s not complete. I have no wish to die yet There is an emptiness a void because The other half of me has died.

    • Diane  January 21, 2023 at 11:23 pm Reply

      Yes exactly! Praying it be sooner than later. My husband name was Gary he passed june 8 2020 and I have lost interest in everything. I too lay in dark and by myself. I tell myself I’m going to do better get invited to go places and do things. I say yes only to think about it and then make excuses because I’m so uncomfortable in my own skin anymore, panic attacks and anxiety ever just being around people it’s everything in me to work two jobs. It does help pass the time in Gotta have money to pay bills and feed and help my kids. And I mean literally everything and if I could, I would stay in my house with the curtains closed door shut TV on and never come out. And I grew up an unloved child. I was 1 of 5. I’m a twin. Every day of my youth with my family I was made to feel like less like no good worthless, fat ugly and was told it on a daily so to say I had self-esteem issues is an understatement especially when you have a twin sister who is always 150 pounds less than you.. it wasn’t just that that she would get new clothes and all kinds of stuff because she was skinny and I which I look at pictures from growing up. I wasn’t even fat but they gave me a complex I was when I met GARY. It wasn’t supposed to be love. We were just dating and having fun, he literally swept me off my feet. He loved everything about me and I couldn’t understand this. Why he love me I didn’t want to change it was just shocking, I would even ask my sister isn’t he to attractive for me like I didn’t deserve him. to me that he everything about me was beautiful and help me achieve goals that I want it and right there behind me through everything always giving me positive. He loved me and I truly tried everyday to let him know how much I loved him. It’s so hard because like u I dream about not having to wake up every day how great it would be to not feel this. I am trying to see if there is any help or is this the fate I have til my day finally comes or is this normal?

  7. Airbnb Management Sydney  November 29, 2018 at 5:36 am Reply

    We need not to be afraid of the approaching winter season. Thanks to the ideas have read and gathered with your article. It’s very helpful and I find it very interesting.

  8. Sarah  November 17, 2016 at 9:29 am Reply

    So glad to have this list to inspire me to keep going. My dad died suddenly on a snowy day in February, just an hour after we had lunch. I can’t believe it’s already back to winter again so fast. The winters where I live are long enough without grief. I’m already following many of the tips on the list, and they’ve been very helpful. It’s all about staying distracted and busy with creative outlets now, otherwise I find my mood plummeting.

  9. Lu  October 9, 2016 at 9:44 am Reply

    My husband and I have been grieving the loss of our only two children over the past 11 years. It’s become ‘new normal’ but is tuff none the less. We grieve quite differently. He escapes into television. I escape outdoors so winter brings some anxiety for me, being cooped up. I’m thinking a routine run to the library for fresh reading material will be good for me (us). Consider also the importance of staying well hydrated during the winter months. I live in Indiana and don’t love winter outdoors and can start to feel really dry w the furnace running constantly. i have a favorite decaf tea, a favorite mug. Fitness is key for me as well. i rarely WANT to do it but once I do, I am better emotionally. A fresh coat of paint in a room is a great pick me up as well during our long winters.

  10. Suzy  September 23, 2016 at 7:38 pm Reply

    I moved to Florida this past June and this will be my first Fall and Winter in a warmer climate. I am from Illinois where 30 below wind chill and many dark/cloudy days are common. My son died on a very cold day January 22, 2016. I think of him in the cold after rehab put him out and he relapsed and overdosed. It pains me to think that given a warmer climate he may not have felt all was so dark and hopeless. Sunny days here in Florida will be nice come winter but I think I may miss the beautiful snow.
    The cold may remind me of his last day so it’s good I will not experience that reminder.

  11. Marianna  September 23, 2016 at 7:23 am Reply

    I feel similarly to Barbara. Winter makes me lazy, fat and depresssed but summer is worse for me. I hate the heat and humidity. Warm, sunny days–peaceful and nice–are the hardest for me. I feel such serenity the urge to self-harm is overwhelming. I’m not sure exactly why. Many of my family members have died during the summer(I’m not 40 yet even) and I have a lot of summer loss, grief and trauma. My counselor is working with me to get to the cause with CBT and EMDR.
    Still, winter is just exceedingly hard to survive year after year. It feels overwhelming just to leave the house because of the snow and cold, not to mention the months of darkness.
    I’m attempting to sell my house and move to warmer, sunnier climate but finding the right spot is difficult. If I have to tough out one more winter here, I’ll def use these tips–I’ve already planned to be on a beach for the holidays…it doesn’t cost a lot and it would be well worth it.
    Thanks for the great tips!

    • Litsa  September 23, 2016 at 8:54 am Reply

      Yes, funny that you both mention this as I was thinking as I wrote this post that we should offer one for summer next year too, for many of the reasons you described! Glad that maybe the winter will be a small reprieve for you both from the challenges of the summer and best wishes finding a home in a warmer climate!

  12. Barbara  September 23, 2016 at 12:02 am Reply

    Summer has been harder for me since my husband died a year and a half ago. Summer is when everyone is outside, walking, bike riding, hiking, swimming. Sitting outside on their deck with a cocktail, working in the garden. Now, I have to watch everyone one else do all these things while I’m alone. In the winter, people are inside early, not out having fun. I can take a hot bath and go to bed earlier. The dark and cold fits my mood.

    • Jeri Gloss  September 23, 2016 at 9:14 pm Reply

      All four seasons hold specific triggerdates for me. I feel as if there is always something right around the corner to spike my grief. My psychiatrist has diagnosed me with complicated grief as I have additional emotional issues with which I have grappled for years. Clinical depression shows up in sunshine or in rain…

    • Debbie  October 12, 2016 at 9:33 pm Reply

      This will be my first winter without my husband. I’ve never been alone. I’m afraid and so lonely. People gave up asking me to go out because I kept turning them down. I consider living a waiting game to die. Winter was always my favourite season; now it scares me.

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