Finding Holiday Joy Amid the Grief
If you've lost a loved one or suffered a setback, the holidays can feel hollow. Learn how to experience joy despite it all.
Let Go of Perfectionism
This is no time for idealized visions and big pressures, Lewis advises.
"Nothing can live up to expectations of a Norman Rockwell holiday. You can
put a lot of energy into making your vision come true, and very often it
doesn't. Nothing is ever going to be that rosy."
Be open to what spontaneously occurs, Lewis says. "Then you won't feel
the pressure to turn every holiday dinner into a picture postcard. Be in the
moment and awake to whatever happens in the moment."
So the cranberry sauce doesn't taste quite right -- so what? Focusing on
flaws makes for an unhappy experience, she explains. “If you can just be
present and taste the food you spent four hours cooking, you will notice that
much of it tastes really good.” If your son has a bad haircut, just let it go.
Enjoy your conversation with him and everyone else at the table. “If you allow
yourself to experience it, the moment will be fresh and happy and joyful,"
Transform Old Traditions
Because we love our traditions, change doesn't come easily, notes Rauch.
"It's important to take stock of favorite old traditions like sitting
around the fireplace in your big old house. Now you're in a small condo, alone
after losing your spouse -- and the family is scattered across the
Examine the most special aspects of that tradition, she advises. "Maybe
that's when the family shared stories. This year, line up a family conference
call instead. Think about what makes traditions special -- then come up with
creative ways to make a new tradition to fit your new situation."
When a parent is seriously ill, it's important that the whole family
brainstorm on how to spend the holidays, notes Rauch. "You may not be able
to travel or have all the relatives over for the big dinner. Talk about the
traditions and what matters most to everyone -- and the best aspects you can
You might watch Christmas movies together. Have the big meal earlier in the
day if a sick parent is particularly tired. If the kids love their cousins'
swimming pool -- but you can't travel this year -- find a pool in your own
town. "Be creative," Rauch says. "Find ways to celebrate."
Say 'No' If You Need To
Creating new traditions is part of healing -- but it can be hard, says
Apollon. "When a mother, father, spouse, or child dies, your heart's not in
it. You don't feel like doing it.
"Do what you can," Apollon advises. "Maybe you want to go
somewhere so you won't be at home during the holiday. If you want to leave
town, take a vacation. You've got to do what feels right for you."
Scale back on decorating the house if you don't feel like it, she adds.
"Find joy in doing things in a smaller way."