How to Deal with Grief during the Halloween Season

It’s Halloween season!

The pumpkins are out, many of them now turned jack-o-lanterns. The party invitations are out, whether it’s a themed adult party at a friend’s place or a block party for all the kids. Even the weather is getting in the spirit, with temperatures dipping and the oranges, reds, and yellows of fall foliage starting to show.

It is a beautiful time of year. Who doesn’t like Halloween and the ability to dress up and be someone else for a day? Or its sister holiday, Dios de los Muertos, when we can celebrate the memories of those we love who have passed?

The season can encompass a range of feelings: joy, sadness, togetherness, reflection, even fear. 

Dealing with Grief in the Midst of Halloween Tropes

We know that Halloween traditions are just for fun, but it can be difficult for those who are grieving to see images associated with death being trivialized and made into decorations and jokes. Plastic headstones, spooky graveyards, and neighborhood yards full of hangings, weapons, and ghosts.

However, it’s important to remember that everyone handles death differently. For some, making light of death can be a way to make it less scary. For others, transforming death into fun and engaging imagery can make it feel more like a natural part of life.

Instead of taking a stance about how the spooky season should be celebrated, we believe it is more important to be sensitive to those around us and conscious of how certain Halloween tropes might make them feel. 

Reasons Halloween Can Be Tough for People

Grief around Halloween can be tricky (no pun intended). 

Grief doesn’t necessarily come in clearly defined stages, as many of us are taught. Instead, grief tends to be cyclical, arriving in waves of complex emotions that can be difficult to sort out and process.

The imagery and subject matter around Halloween can sometimes be overwhelming for those grieving, particularly those who have lost someone recently. Being conscious of this and how Halloween-related celebrations can affect those we love is the best way to avoid unknowingly causing someone to feel pain, alienation, or mental suffering.

Here are a few situations that can be particularly difficult to handle during the Halloween season.

A child or teenager tragically passed.

Children and teenagers are often the biggest lovers of Halloween, and when a child passes away, that first Halloween can be especially hard.

After all, so much of the media we see around Halloween is about children––candy, scary movies, costumes, and more.

For parents, the child-centric holiday can spark deep grief over their loss and serve as a reminder of those moments in time their child can no longer experience.

A parent is no longer there.

Often, the loss of a mom or dad who made a holiday special can be particularly painful. It is often our parents who teach us the traditions of Halloween and help us build our own familial rituals around it.

If a parent who really loved Halloween and made it special for you passes, this time of year can be a reminder of their absence. Halloween is a tradition, after all, and our traditions are given to us through shared experiences and memories with those we love.

This can make Halloween, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays, a difficult time––whether it's the first year after a loss or 10 years down the road.

Ways To Help Cope With Halloween Grief

First and foremost, it’s important to note that you can always skip Halloween.

There is no need to participate in something that gives you stress, anxiety, or depression.

You are in control of your own thoughts and mindset, so if you choose to pull up Netflix and watch some lighthearted shows instead of participating in the Halloween festivities, that is perfectly fine.

Buy flowers instead of pumpkins. Take a few extra days off work for self-care and and emotional maintenance. Take deep breaths.

However, if you do choose to celebrate Halloween, there are also strategies you can employ to make the holiday experience an enjoyable one, regardless if you, a friend, or family member you love is dealing with loss.

Talk about the good times.

Remember, one of the best ways to help folks who are grieving is to talk through feelings and sort out and process the complex emotions that come with loss. Even simply talking about the person who has passed away can make them feel close and bring comfort through fond memories and shared experiences.

And while this can sometimes feel uncomfortable for those who aren’t grieving, it’s important to remember that the people who are grieving are already thinking about the loved one they have lost. It will inevitably be on their mind, whether explicitly or in the background. By engaging with the grieving person and giving them “permission” to open their heart and share their feelings, you help that person feel heard and understood.

If Halloween was special to the person who passed, you can use the occasion as a way to reminisce. Tell stories about amazing Halloween costumes they used to wear, or talk about events in this year's celebration they would have loved. By connecting memories and experiences to the deceased, you can keep their spirit present and alive in the moment.

Reminisce over old photos.

Need help remembering those old costumes and silly moments? Pull out those Halloween pictures from years past and pass them around the table. They are bound to lead to shared stories and memories.

You can also reach out to your broader community and support system by posting photos on social media, if you feel comfortable doing so. This is a great way to share more about the remarkable person who is no longer with us, what made them so special, why they loved Halloween so much, and what they taught you.

You’d be surprised how many people can relate!

Visit your loved one’s grave or memorial

Visiting a loved one's grave or memorial during the Halloween season can provide a meaningful opportunity reflect on their memory. It allows you to connect with the past, evoke cherished memories, and honor the traditions you shared. You can decorate the grave, share the experience with other loved ones that miss the person, and find solace, all while expressing love and gratitude to the person you’ve lost. 

This act of remembrance during a season associated with the blurring of boundaries between the living and the dead can symbolize a commitment to maintaining a connection with your deceased loved one and continuing to cherish their presence in your life.

Everyone's grieving process is unique, but visiting a loved one's grave or memorial can be a special way to feel that connection you shared in life. 

Continue Halloween traditions.

Did you share particular Halloween traditions with your loved one? Did you always go to a haunted house? Maybe you made a specific Halloween dinner or dessert? Did they decorate the house? Continue any Halloween traditions to honor your loved one and keep them present in your celebrations..

After all, our grief is due to their absence, but their life was real and important and continues to impact us, even after they are gone. Honoring and sharing the traditions they loved is one way to pay it forward.

Eat their favorite candy.

Did your loved one like a certain candy? Celebrate them by eating their favorite sweets, and share their love by passing them out to trick or treaters.

Was your loved one the type that gave out healthy snacks instead of treats? Continue the tradition!

Even if you don’t want to participate in the trick or treating tradition, you can grab a bag of their favorite sweets and indulge anyway. And you don’t have to do this as part of a group. This can be just between you and them.

Talk to a support group or therapist.

Does everything still feel incredibly overwhelming? That’s okay—and normal.

Not only are you allowed to check out and not participate in Halloween, it may also be helpful to find a support group or therapist who can help talk you through all the emotions you are feeling.

Give Back 

Giving back to your community during the Halloween season can be a powerful way to cope with the grief of losing a loved one. Engaging in community service can provide a sense of purpose and a welcome distraction from overwhelming feelings of loss. It can also foster connections with others and empower you to take back some control over your world. 

Providing services to your community can be a tribute to your loved one, creating a positive legacy and offering a healthy outlet for your emotions. This meaningful involvement not only helps you process your grief in a manageable way but also promotes personal growth and resilience.

As you give back this Halloween season, remember to choose activities and causes that resonate with you or your loved one, seek support when needed, and allow the experience to become a source of healing and connection during a challenging time.


Halloween can be tough, but there are ways to cope and honor your loved ones. The best advice is to make a plan, start slow, and do what feels right for you. If you need to skip Halloween, do it––there is always next year!

If you do want to participate, find ways to continue the legacy of your loved one through old and new traditions.

For friends and family of those who are grieving, just be there for them. Give them the opportunity to talk about how they are feeling, participate to the degree they feel comfortable, sit out of celebrations if that’s what they want.

Each of us grieves in our own way, and while Halloween can bring death front and center in what might sometimes feel like a disingenuous way, it is a good time to educate folks on what loss and grief really look like and work towards healing.