Getting Through the Holidays: 10 Practical Suggestions

No matter what your faith or whether you celebrate religiously or secularly, there seems to be no avoiding that holiday fever that surrounds us all at this time of year. It is normally a time for family get-togethers, gift sharing and parties galore. These events only tend to emphasize the fact that your loved one is missing from this normally happy and festive time.

So, what are some ways to help yourself to feel better during this season, especially if you have recently lost a loved one, or, even after many years, holiday time is re-emphasizing the missing person in your life?

Here are ten practical suggestions.

1. Learn to say NO -- and not feel bad about doing so! Say no to those obligations that make you feel sad or stir up memories you don’t feel strong enough to confront yet. You can skip parties, both personal and work related. You are not obligated to live up to others’ expectations of you.

2. No need to bake those holiday goodies this year. There is way too much of that stuff around anyway tempting us to stray from healthy eating. Staying away from sweets will help to regulate your blood sugar too, which will keep you on a steadier emotional keel.

3. If you need to buy gifts, use catalogs and the Internet to shop stress free at any time of day or night. You might use theme buying to make it easier on yourself. Pick one store where you can purchase everyone’s gift – perhaps one for the women and one for the men. For example, Victoria’s Secret is a great one for the women in your life. Not only do they have wonderful lingerie, you can find perfume, lotions and potions, CDs, and PJs. Throw in a bottle of wine for the age appropriate, and you’re set! Try Home Depot for the men.

4. Scale your holiday decorating down or simply skip it this year. If you want to put up a few Christmas lights, ask a friend to help.

5. If you usually create a holiday letter to send to friends, try writing a generic one and simply personalize the heading and signature. If you have kids and grandkids, focus on their achievements. It’s easier to find “happy” items to report about them.

6. Keep your expectations of self in check. Be patient and generous with yourself. Afford yourself the same kindness with which you treat others in times of need.

7. If you previously celebrated this season with lots of rituals, perhaps only include one or two. Do what’s right for you and your family. You also can create new traditions that are a better fit for your life right now.

8. If you have no family around, do something special for yourself, for example take a spa day; go on a hike on a beautiful trail; take a trip; read those books you have meaning to get to but are piled up on your night table.

9. Find a place in your heart to which you can retreat when the holiday atmosphere seems too oppressive. This could be filled with fond memories, funny holiday situations from years past, or a place of gratitude that you are still here and coping with your new life.

10. Let others know what you need. They want to help, but perhaps they just
don’t know what to do for you. Help them out – make a list!! Great inexpensive holiday presents that give throughout the year might include certificates to help around the house, babysitting, lunch out with friends, etc.

The underlying theme about how to move through the holiday season as gracefully (and quickly) as possible is to do what feels right for you. And, if that means avoiding festivities this season, so be it. Maybe next year you will be able to handle this time of year more easily.

Ellen Gerst is a Life Coach who specializes in grief and relationships and the author of several books on both subjects born from a combination of her experience as a young widow and her professional expertise. Titles include: 101 Tips and Thoughts on Coping with Grief, an easy-to-read, concise reference guide filled with tips for every day coping; Love After Loss: Writing the Rest of Your Story, a blueprint on how to redesign your life after the loss of a partner in order to welcome new love; Thin Threads of Grief and Renewal (co-editor), an anthology of uplifting stories that illustrate the strength of the human spirit to repair itself; and The Other Side of the Vail: Spiritual Guidance for Everyday Living (co-author), for those who are searching for meaning in their loss. Connect with Ellen via Facebook at Thin Threads and Love After Loss. For more information and to purchase books, click here.

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Comment by Anne on December 27, 2010 at 12:30am
I am new, and would be very grateful for advice on how to handle 2 young teenage girls who are not helping around home, grades not great, and advice on whether or not to move from home into a new city with new people and new opportunities
Comment by judy reid on December 18, 2010 at 11:19am

My niece is in morning I know she needs to vent but  just never seems to appropriately. Or maybe she just doesn't want to talk about her husbands death or maybe just not with her aunt. I don'tmknow what to say or do to help her get through this in a positive way without intruding on her fragile spirit and sensitive emotions, especially this time of year.

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