By Kirsti A. Dyer MD, MS, FT
It is important to recognize it
is not unusual to feel sad or depressed during the holiday season
or around other special dates -- anniversaries of births or deaths
or special occasions. Holidays and special dates can trigger an
episode of the blues, feelings of loneliness, depression and
melancholy, especially if one is still in an active grieving
Here is a list of suggestions to help you cope:
-It's okay to cry.
-Especially if you are grieving, don't trying to be all things for
all people. Learn to set realistic limits on your energies.
-Make time for yourself. If possible, do something self-indulgent,
such as getting a massage, a new hair cut or even just taking a
-Call, visit, write or e-mail a long-lost friend, someone who is
house-bound, or an elderly relative.
-Get plenty of sleep and exercise.
-Try to minimize drinking and eating. During periods of the blues,
drinking can contribute to the depression and the associated
-Spend time with people who care about you, who are nurturing and
supportive. Try and limit the amount of time spent with people who
drive you crazy.
-Enjoy free activities:
- Walk in the community park
- Watch the sunset
- Smell baking bread
- Browse through books or magazines in bookstores or grocery
stores (especially in sections you don't normally visit)
- Window shop without buying
- Listen to outdoor Christmas concerts
- Enjoy Christmas carolers
-Donate your money or time to a local charity. It’s a way of
helping those who may have less.
-Keep daily expectations manageable. Set realistic goals, decide
what you can comfortably handle, and let your family and friends
know about your limitations.
-Realize that each holiday, birthday or anniversary is only one
day. Take them one occasion at a time.
-Consider doing something in memory of departed loved ones:
- Set up a scholarship
- Dedicate a bench or plaque
- Plant a tree
- Adopt a needy family
- Donate money to their favorite cause
- Publish an ad in the local paper to remember an
-Create rituals to remember the loved one:
- Light a special candle
- Play a favorite song
- Hang a certain ornament
- Hang a stocking for the loved one in which people can include
- Listen to music your loved one liked
- Write letters or notes expressing your feelings and share them
with others if it seems appropriate
-Get out in nature. Walk, hike, or just enjoy feeling the winter
-It's okay to enjoy yourself, to laugh and to have fun. Laughter is
healing and is not a sign of disrespect. Think about the person you
have lost and try to imagine asking them the question, "Is it OK
for me to enjoy myself now?" I think you will discover the answer
to be "YES."
-Blow bubbles (it makes you feel like a kid again!)
-Go to or rent an uplifting movie. Some of the ones that always
make me feel better are:
- "It's a Wonderful Life"
- "Miracle on 34th Street"
- "Sleepless in Seattle"
- "Forrest Gump"
- "Apollo 13"
- "The Princess Bride"
- "Bed of Roses"
- "It Could Happen to You"
- "Sleeping Beauty"
- "The Sound of Music"
- "The Wizard of Oz"
- "The Full Monty"
- "Ever After"
-Buy a tree or plant, then create a ceremony to plant it.
-Look for activities at your local recreation department or
-See a play or a concert at a high school or college. Check your
local paper for listings and ideas.
-Attend a church service.
-Attend a poetry reading.
-Start a journal to record your thoughts, feelings and writings --
to share or just to get out of your system.
-Join a health club, YMCA or local park and recreation department
for exercise classes.
-Try to keep a cheerful disposition with sales clerks, people
waiting in lines, people in the produce section of the grocery
-Simple, genuine statements can often lead to conversations. For
example, "I need to pick a present for my [fill in the blank]. What
do you think of this?" or "What a handsome dog!"
-Keep trying. You may find someone else who is also experiencing
the blues and would welcome the chance to talk with a pleasant
stranger and may become a new friend.
Managing the Holidays
So Let Us Celebrate
Handling the Holidays
Also by Kirsti A. Dyer:
Creatively Coping With Grief
Kirsti A. Dyer MD, MS, FT is a
respected physician specializing in life challenges, loss, grief
and bereavement. A professional health educator, professor,
lecturer and author, she created the Journey of Hearts Web site in
1997 as the first and only physician-based Web site devoted to
educating people about the grief response. She continues to provide
resources, information and support through her blog.
Image Source: StockXchng/lusi