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How to Manage the Holidays Without a Loved One

Updated: Dec 24, 2021

The holiday season is supposed to be full of joy, gratitude, and love. A season that’s packed with family traditions and time spent with our loved ones.

You look around and see the stores filling up with decorations, excited shoppers, and endless Christmas tunes.

Except, this year… you don’t really feel like buying into the holiday cheer.

The holiday season is full of joy for some people, while for others it can be a time of grief and sadness. Many people every year have to learn how to navigate the “jolly” season without the ones they love the most by their side.

The memories of spending time with someone you cared for around the season can be hard to manage while you go on making new ones without them. It’s almost like a balancing act of trying to navigate the happy season with the feelings of loss lingering right around the corner.

You want to experience the “magic” that you felt growing up, but it feels unattainable without the person that once brought you so much joy.

1. Don’t ignore your feelings

It can be tempting to want to avoid feeling sad, especially while those around you seem so happy. But you don’t need to hide your grief, even when it’s supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year.”

When you miss a loved one, it’s not that the pain goes away, you simply learn how to adapt to the hole in your life. And right now, especially if this is the first holiday season without a loved one, that hole may be feeling endless.

Take some moments on your own to work through those feelings and think about some of the memories you’ve shared around the season together, and allow yourself to feel the sadness that comes with those memories.

It’s not that I want you to wallow in your pain, but it’s much better to acknowledge the loss rather than trying to bury the feelings even deeper.

2. Celebrating is your choice

Our society is in love with celebrating the holidays, and you may be feeling obligated to play your role this season.

But just because you feel obligated, doesn’t mean you have to.

Maybe you’re the one that cooks the meal, wraps the presents, hosts the parties, and normally the thought of that excites you, but this year it sounds almost impossible.

Or maybe you’re the one that just shows up with the sarcastic jokes and the ridiculous gifts, but this year you’re not feeling it.

And that is okay.

You don’t have to put on your happy face just to please those around you. You may be someone that doesn’t want to miss out on all of the traditions, but it’s okay to at least lighten the load during your time of grieving.

Or maybe you don’t want to have the big family get together, instead you want to be with your immediate family while you stay in your pj’s all day and eat take out. And that’s fine!

Only you know the limits of what you can handle while you’re experiencing your grief, which means it’s up to you to decide on the plans this year.

Don’t force the holiday cheer before you’re ready.

3. Honor your lost loved ones

Making a point to remember your loved ones can be a beautiful way to celebrate their life during the holidays.

You can create an ornament for them with their favorite color/characters/etc. Have a candlelight service in your home while singing their favorite Christmas song (or any song!). If they had a favorite dessert or side dish, make it a point to bake it with love in honor of them.

When you’re sitting around the table with your loved ones you can honor the lost ones that live on in your heart by taking a moment to talk about beautiful memories you shared with them over the years.

Now, I know some of you are gasping at the thought of being vulnerable around your family. It sounds almost unimaginable! But, I urge you to use the spirit of the holidays to take that step into the unknown with your family and create beautiful moments together this holiday season. Ones that are molded by the memory of your lost loved ones.

4. Be courteous of others

Be thoughtful of others who may have lost a loved one this year as well. It’s sometimes the ones that seem to have everything handled that are grieving the most.

A kind word, acknowledging their loss or a little note letting you know you’re there for them may make the world of a difference.

It can be easy to want to force happiness this season, and dealing with those that are grieving can feel like they’re putting a “damper” on the holiday spirit.

But remember, this season isn’t about forcing happiness. It’s about upholding the bonds you have with loved ones and creating moments that will be remembered for years to come, even if those moments are ones of mutual grief.

The moments where someone voluntarily meets you in your sadness can be some of the most unforgettable ones of your life.

So be that ray of hope and that glimmer of sunlight in a grieving person’s story this year.

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