Mourning the loss of a loved one is hard work and it can feel even tougher when you add holidays into the mix. Our holidays are laced with traditions, memories, and familiar faces. When someone is missing, what do you do? Celebrate as you always did or bury your head under the covers and hope the day and season quickly pass?

The holidays will come and go whether you feel like participating in them or not. How you handle specific holidays and what you decide to do is a very personal choice.

One friend planned carefully for the first Christmas holiday without his mom. He invited new friends for dinner but prepared different foods from prior years. He then treated everyone to a movie. He said he was so afraid the holidays would be sad and he was grateful he had a good time while exploring new ways to celebrate.

Another friend found it too difficult to divert from the traditional family favorites for Thanksgiving. She painstakingly recreated all the familiar dishes, seeing it as a way to honor her mother.  

There are many ways to approach the holidays:

  1. If you don’t feel like celebrating, giving of yourself and helping others is an alternative. Volunteer opportunities are plentiful; you can prepare and serve meals at shelters, fix holiday baskets for needy families, or participate in fundraising walks or runs the morning of or week leading up to a holiday.  
  2. Host those with no holiday plans, have a quiet meal, or accept an invitation.
  3. If being alone is appealing, give yourself permission to spend the day or week any way you like. Read a book, watch movies, turn off the phone, make your favorite foods, or order in.
  4. Maybe you need a complete change of scene. Check into a local hotel or travel to a new destination, one with no personal history.
  5. Pamper yourself, in whatever way you would enjoy. Give yourself the luxury of time, attention, or something material.

Whatever you choose to do, know that the day and season will pass and there will be new days ahead.

Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.

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Comment by Charles E. Nelson on November 14, 2015 at 8:01pm
My husband's family are all trying to include me in Thanksgivings they are hosting or invited to. I'm actually going to feel closer to Larry here at home than in a restaurant or someone's sister-in law's house. Thank you for suggesting that it is not destructive or a bad thing to want to be alone sometimes. I get so confused by the avalanche of emotions that I doubt my own juudgement - you have helped me consider listening to my heart and following the path that feels safest for me. Thank you.
Comment by George Sylves on November 10, 2015 at 3:57pm

This is good advice, I will have as many people this Holiday season at the house as i can get to come. More people will provide more distraction. I better get cleaning. Thanks Robbie for letting me know what I was feeling is OK.

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