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Health & Balance

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.
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Transform Old Traditions continued...

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 salvage."

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."

Honor Your Loved One

Light a special candle to celebrate someone you love. Create ornaments with a photograph. "It's important to find ways to honor your loved one -- a way that feels comfortable for you," Apollon tells WebMD. "Make cookies that grandmother used to make. Or serve dad's favorite main dish in his honor. Watch their favorite movie together. These are all ways to connect with that person."

A visit to the cemetery is a tradition for many people. Take that moment to talk heart-to-heart with your loved one. Or use a journal to have a conversation. Get out the photo albums.

With a death in the family, it helps to focus on the richness of a life well-lived, says Rauch. "When you share stories about that person, you're filling your heart with that person -- since they can't fill your living room anymore. While there is sadness, there are often a lot of happy, funny, rich memories that can be shared. "

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