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Health & Balance

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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.

Accept the Sadness continued...

"If we allow ourselves to have those emotions, they will actually pass more quickly than if we push them away," she says.

The feeling of separation is indeed poignant at the holidays, says Apollon. "It's important to feel safe in facing your sadness, letting yourself cry when you need to. You have to experience the sadness to get past it," she tells WebMD.

Then call a friend and meet for coffee -- or do something equally comforting, she adds.

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," says Lewis.

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 country."

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."

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