The Christmas season is here. This cannot be denied. Stores are decked out in their holiday finest. Christmas tunes accost us everywhere we turn. Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph are showing on the television. We can get our yearly fix of It’s a Wonderful Lifeon Turner Classic. Yet somehow we don’t feel in the holiday spirit. We just cannot get ourselves to be jolly or merry. We don’t need the Grinch to steal our Christmas, grief has done that for us.

All of those traditions and simple ways we marked the holiday now don’t seem so important. The tree sits in the attic where we left it last January. The lights are in their box in the garage and the wreath has yet to make it out of the basement. We just don’t have the desire to decorate. We feel like we should do something, but our hearts are just not into it this year. 

Here is a radical suggestion: Don’t. Don’t put up the big tree this year. Maybe get a small tabletop one or a smaller easier to assemble type or don’t put up a tree at all. Don’t put up the lights inside or out. Leave the wreath where it is and the windows and doors bare. The fireplace mantel can remain garland free and stocking-less. There are no decorating police who will come to your house and inspect it for its Christmas cheer. Martha Stewart is not going to judge you for your lack of red and green décor. So stop putting additional pressure on yourself to do something you just don’t have the energy or desire to do.


Instead visit friends' homes or drive around the neighborhood and enjoy everyone else’s lights. As I watched my neighbor standing precariously on a ladder far above the ground trying to string his lights across the gable of his roof line, I was glad that it wasn’t me risking my life for a few twinkling evenings. I vowed to re-visit his home at night to enjoy his labors, but I am not feeling any pressure to match his festive feats. In fact I saw a great photo on Facebook that shows a house all decked out in lights and the house next door strung some lights that simply said, “Ditto.” 


Ditto – that is all you need to say. I will enjoy your efforts, but I cannot bring myself to do this for myself this year. So you bring the lights, the trees, the wreaths, the blow-up Santas and boughs of holly and I will look at it all and enjoy it and simply state that this year is my “ditto” year.


Nancy Weil is a leading authority on humor and grief. She serves as Director of Grief Support for eleven cemeteries and is a Certified Funeral Celebrant and Grief Management Specialist. Through her company, The Laugh Academy, she offers products to ease the stress and pain that grief can bring. Bandages for Your Heart on DVD or CD, Laugh for the Health of It on CD and her new book, If Stress Doesn’t Kill You, Your Family Might, can be ordered by clicking here.


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Comment by Nancy Weil on December 14, 2011 at 1:25pm


The holidays are not the same without the one who was our "decorating partner."  Sometimes we need a strong reason to push ourselves and put up the trees and lights. Often, it is the children that give us that push.  Their anticipation and joy for the season light us up inside and we do not want to disappoint them, so we drag out the ornaments, drive to the garden center and create a festive looking home for them to visit.  It is my wish that you are able to grab a bit of their joy.

Comment by Susan Mayer on December 14, 2011 at 12:33pm

I lost my husband of 23 years in September 2010 and am facing my second holiday season without him.  Last year, I was in a fog and did little to decorate - just put the electric candles in the windows of my house.  This year, I'm anticipating a 3-day holiday visit from my younger stepson, daughter-in-law, and 3 year-old granddaughter, and I want to make it a nice holiday for them.  So, yesterday I went to the garden center to buy a wreath to hang from the mantle, something my husband and I always did together.  I felt sad, driving over there, but instead of focusing on not having my husband with me, I told myself I was doing it for my granddaughter and that my husband would like that.  The garden center had trees, wreaths, swags - all smelling so good! - and lots of pretty lights and other winter decorations.  I enjoyed just being there and selecting a nice wreath.  I hung it up last night and put the candles in the living room windows.  This morning, the house smells of evergreens, and I'm thinking perhaps I'll add a few real candles to the room for the holiday.  I won't go beyond that - no setting the neighborhood alight with a large display - but it's festive enough, and it didn't push me beyond what I feel motivated to do.  More important perhaps, it's more than I felt like doing last year.  I still hurt inside and miss Steve terribly, but I'm aware that I also enjoyed doing just a little holiday decorating.  Emphasis on "a little."  (Oh, I saw the "ditto" photo, too.  Very funny.)

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