6 Things to Consider Before You Skip the Holidays

So, you are thinking about skipping the holidays altogether. Let me assure you, you wouldn’t be the first and you won’t be the last.  

When you’re struggling with grief, the prospect of dealing with holidays can feel impossible.  The rituals, the traditions, the shopping, the cooking, the music, the decorations, the cards, the family, the parties . . . I am starting to feel a bit ill just thinking about it.  

No surprise, there are moments when your best option feels like skipping the holidays completely – and we totally support this plan.  However, there are a few things anyone thinking about skipping the holidays should consider. 

It’s Okay to Skip the Holidays

Really, it is. Let’s say it together: it is okay to skip the holidays. That said, there will inevitably be some people who will make you feel like crap about your decision.  

You may need to remind yourself again and again (and again and again) that it is absolutely okay to take a break from the holidays.  No matter how many people try to shame you into coming to the holiday party or having everyone over for Christmas dinner, remember your needs and stay strong!
mean girls its not going to happen

Skipping The Holidays Year Doesn’t Mean Skipping Them Forever

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but, for better or worse, the holidays roll around every year.  Your decision this year really has little bearing on whether you celebrate next year.  

If this has been a particularly rough year, you may realize you just can’t handle the holidays and you need a break.  Next year you may feel different and that is absolutely okay.
next year

Are You Skipping The Holidays for the Right Reasons?

Figuring this out can be tough.  The important thing to consider is whether it is you who wants to skip the holiday, or whether you’re being pressured by external factors. We all grieve differently, so it can be tough when some people want to have a traditional holiday and others do not.  

Do your best to sort out your own wants, while giving yourself time to properly consider the decision.  In one emotional moment it can be easy to throw in the towel and decide to skip the holiday, but it is important to give yourself time to assess and reassess whether that is the right decision for you.  

It is also important to make sure that giving yourself a break from the holidays isn’t straight up avoidance.  You are going to have to face these holidays every year and there can be a big difference between ‘I just need a break this year’ and ‘I am absolutely never willing to leave my home in the month of December ever again’.

You Might be REALLY Glad You Skipped the Holiday

Sometimes skipping a holiday is a huge relief and it is just what you need.  If this happens, that is great.  Try to embrace that you did what was best for you and don’t let yourself feel guilt imposed by others.  You assessed your needs, you took action (even when it was tough), and it worked for you.  Own it!

You Might be REALLY Unhappy You Skipped the Holiday

Sometimes skipping the holiday backfires.  Maybe you decide to fly to the tropics and lay on the beach, maybe you decide to hole up in your bed and watch movies all day.  Whatever you do, sometimes you end up feeling even worse than you think you would have otherwise.  

Sometimes skipping the holidays sounds a lot better than it actually is.  If you skip the holiday and realize it might not have been the best decision, cut yourself a break.  You can always do things differently next year!  You were trying to take care of yourself and, unfortunately, we don’t always know what is best for us.  We do the best we can at the moment and, when we make the wrong choice, we just do it better next time.

Decide What You Will Do

It is easy to decide what you won’t do for the holidays.  It can be far more difficult to decide what you will do instead.  When everyone else is planning for their standard holiday cheer, it is important that you too consider your plans for the day.  

There is no right or wrong for your not-holiday.  Do whatever you want, no judgment.  But don’t let the day creep up on you without a plan.  For some inspiration in planning to skip a holiday, you can check out my post on how I make actual plans to sulk for Father’s Day.  It is just as crazy as it sounds, but whatever works, right?

don't let the haters stop you

When You Can’t Skip the Holidays

As much as we support self-care, taking breaks and tending to your own needs, the reality is that sometimes you will have to suck it up and get through the holidays for other people.  If that is the case, we do have some tips. Check out this post on getting through the holidays for the kids and check out this index of all our holiday posts!

Skipped the holidays and it was great?  Skipped the holidays and it sucked?  Planning to skip the holidays this year?  Leave a comment to keep the conversation going!

December 6, 2019

39 responses on "6 Things to Consider Before You Skip the Holidays"

  1. I’ve never particularly cared much for the holidays outside of the music and the cookies. When I say holidays, I mean from Thanksgiving through Christmas. We were very poor growing up so the presents were usually hand-me-downs…the family get together would only end up with drunken arguments. My mother was a terrible cook, so it’s not like the food was anything to rave about. As of 2019, all of my family members are dead now except for an older brother, one niece and one nephew, who are also adults. My younger brother committed suicide on December 2nd. I do not have children by choice. I do however have a wonderful husband of 20 years and kitties. It’s just easier for me to skip the whole holiday process completely and focus on something else. We usually travel somewhere warm, see some live music along the way and visit with our out of town friends. It has become surprisingly easy these past years to escape the grasp of the holiday season. This year is a given.

  2. Please address some one like me who lost my husband of 53 years three years ago and is still grieving. He died in the car with me while we were returning from a trip and I was driving. I feel like I should be progressing, but I am not.

  3. I lost my partner a week before Christmas last year, suddenly. The apartment was already decorated, the gifts already bought and wrapped. I went out Christmas Eve day and returned his, it was awful. SO, I celebrated because I didnt know what else to do, went to a friend’s house and my sister’s also. This year I want no part of this. Im working two jobs now to make ends meet, no one understands, even if I had all the money in the world it would still be a no go. I spoke to a family member and said” Im not doing Christmas this year, no gifts, nothing, I hope you all understand” Her response, which really hurt me was : Oh, well we did buy you a few things, we can return them. Some Christmas spirit there. I strung a small set of lights around his urn, he loved Christmas so much, and I will light them Christmas eve through Christmas night and that is it.

  4. I too don’t want to Decorate, I lost my Only Child on Jan 2,2019. She always wanted to Decorate my Apt and it’s too Hard for me. I did put up my little Tree, just for the lights no Decorations. She gave me Flameless Candles, so I Have those out, That’s it though. Christmas was her Favorite Holiday! I’m trying to do some of the things we did together because I know She would want me too but it’s so Damn hard.

  5. My wife was so so sick last Christmas and died a few days later.
    I can’t imagine attempting to celebrate .

  6. My husband passed in July of this year 2019. I just want the holidays to be over. Thanksgiving was miserable and Christmas will be even worse.

  7. I am skipping the holidays because I am done trying to keep the spirit of Christmas going. I tried for weeks to get my daughter to think about doing more simpler traditional thing and not focus it about getting everyone expensive gifts. Also I would try to plan to go shopping or going to see stuff but it became clear that I was not the one she wanted to hang out with, well of course I am the mom, right, but it hurt none the less, so I tried to set up a time for us to bake cookies and cake for the holidays, turns out even that was a bust, she decided to hang out with others and do other stuff, that kinda was the last straw, I decided forget it, I am done. This year I am going to skip Christmas and not do anything at all, no baking, cooking, and no presents, just making it like any other day, I even decided that I am going to work on that day, so there it is…I am done well for this year that is, maybe next year will be better, who knows….

  8. My mom went into a coma on Christmas Day 2018. Two week later she came out of it, only to pass away 2 1/2 weeks later. I can’t stand the thought of putting up a Christmas Tree this year. Why can’t some of my family understand that I just can’t handle it this year?

  9. I skipped Thanksgiving 2 weeks after my father died last year.

    In large part, it was because I was annoyed at my family for putting pressure on me to continue to untangle the mess that my father had left when he collapsed, and I had already spent the previous 5 months untangling it (which had prevented me form working), and had spent three months before that trying to keep him alive, going to his medical appointments, etc., even though he lived 2 hours away. This pressure was applied four hours after he died, when I was balking at being the one to run a special needs trust for my psychotic sister. I was never given the chance to grive.

    It did upset my mother, who has Alzheimers and also needs support. I skipped Christmas because I had a fever of 102 and went to the emergency room at Midnight on Christmas Eve. So I guess the pressure got to me.

    A year later, I’m still trying to work on helping my mother, still untangling my father’s paperwork (I finally brought it home in in boxes and garbage bags, and sometimes open up an envelope with $500 in it, or find an unknown account for $50,000). My income is off by 75% as I do this, and reconciling the estate is mind-numbingly boring. I’d be better off skipping any inheritance and going back to work.

    I want to skip the Holidays again, and would like to get out of my family.

  10. This will be my first holiday without my son Jake. He died May 7. I just decorated the inside of the house. I live with my oldest daughter’s family and my youngest daughter lives with us. She’s developmentally delayed. My granddaughters are 8 and 5. I couldn’t dream of not decorating and buying gifts for them. Their parents aren’t as into it as I have always been. I’m one of those crazy people who add more every year. My so would not want me to change even though he loved to pick on me. My youngest daughter and I have had plans for a year to go to mazatlan Mexico the week before Christmas. I see this as an omen. It will be wonderful to get away from all of this. If my son had to leave this earth he had good timing. I did my thing and now will get away from it all as my heart is breaking. I gave my granddaughters a wonderful Christmas and one day they will realize what I did for them. This gives me peace.

  11. I lost my father on Christmas day 20 years ago and because I had two young boys I went through the motions. I lost my mother on December 22, 2016 and I was totally numb. Christmas this year is so hard. I have a little Christmas up but only because of my 3 year old grandson. I hate the month of December.

  12. I considered skipping the holidays. My daughter was stillborn on her due date last May. BUT I have a living daughter who is 4 1/2. This is a truly magical age. Santa sent a note asking my daughter to help choose a gift for a baby, something she would have chosen for her own baby sister. Finding ways to create magic for my living daughter while honoring and remembering my youngest daughter is my goal for this year.

  13. This is such an insightful piece with some truly fabulous tips! Thank you for helping heal worlds of hurt! ?

  14. I’ve decorated for the holidays, to make things cheery for the neighbors if not for me. But my fiance of 9 years and I had no close relatives and since he passed in November 2015, I have only my friends to turn to. I flew to see a friend last Christmas but I don’t want to be a pest so I’m staying home alone with my old dog and cat this Christmas. All of my friends and neighbors will be with their families, so somehow I’ll have to brave the holiday weekend alone. It makes my loss all the more palpable.

  15. Husband passed Dec24,2015 he loved Christmas but I have no desire to do anything for the Holidays.

    • My dad died in February. He loved the holidays too. I realize now he *made* the holidays for me. It’s a sad realization that without him, it will never truly feel like Thanksgiving or Christmas again. He was the spirit of the season. I used to love hosting the holidays, feeding off his enthusiasm. Now I have zero desire.

  16. I have to ignore the holidays. I have no money for them and hated them to begin with!

  17. I don’t want to just skip the holidays – I want to skip life in general!! 15 months since my husband passed and life is truly meaningless!

    • V. Shaw I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s been 22 months for me. And as I posted a few times this seems like the first Christmas. I never realized how numb I was. This past week I felt my self sinking back into that dark pain that engulfed me last Spring. I never wanted to die but the emotional pain was more than I could bear. How I got through it was day to day, moment to moment, and if necessary breath to breath! Never easy, just keep reaching out! Prayers and hugs, ??⚓️????

  18. I haven’t gotten a tree i tried to shop but broke down. .my mom was my shopping partner. She passed July 15th of this year and I am hurting so bad. .my husband wants me to get a little tree and I can’t even imagine trying to do that right now. My birthday was earlier this month and I have been a wreck since then. My youngest daughter is 15 and I also have a special needs 19 year old son who doesn’t understand why i am still so sad.

    • Dana,

      What does your 15 year old think about the tree? If you agree as a family to skip it, then that’s totally okay! You can always get one again next year. Although it sounds like you may be feeling a little pressure to get one for the sake of everyone else 🙁 I’m sorry this birthday and holiday season is awful, hang in there.


  19. I lost my husband 9-4-15, he was only 36. We have been best friends since we were 10. We were only married a year and a half, but this would have been our 4th Christmas together. We reconnected after many years and he was divorced with 2 children, whose mother won’t let me see them anymore. I can’t even think about getting out decorations and seeing our ornaments and personalized stockings. I have never felt agony like this before, I don’t know how people do this every year! In addition my Mother passed away when I was 13, and her birthday was Christmas day. Luckily it’s been unseasonably warm in Pennsylvania this year so it makes it easier to feel less Christmas like.

  20. I lost my grandson 12-21-12…he was 21 and this year I am still heart broken.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. A broken heart even after 3 yrs is very understandable. The best any of us can do is finding a way to live with it. The pain will always be there.??????

    • Wow! The synchronicity of the dates in your grief story are incredible. When I focus on the mystical aspects of life – like dates being so coincidentally aligned – it helps me realize I am a part of a bigger picture and my grief gets diminished somehow. Please know we live in a big universe but you are being held up and prayed for today by me. Many blessings…

  21. I have read your heartfelt posts. Your courage to share your grief is humbling. The holidays are minefields for people who are grieving the loss of a loved one that they used to share them with. The favorite songs that fill the airways, the trees to be decorated or the menorahs to be lit seem pointless without them. I hold you each in my heart. I wish and pray for peace for each of you.

  22. You can also tone down the holiday celebrations because, frankly they seem to be too much when you are grieving. And another thing you can do is to change your traditions. When my nephew died we had Christmascat our house so my sister didn’t have to deal with anything. When my son died we changed things because it was too painful to do the other things without him. Our other boys still needed Christmas and they were fine with the changes. For those of you who are newly grieving the first year you are so numb but the second year can actually be harder for holidays and anniversaries because the numbness wears off. But you WILL survive this and you will smile and feel joy again. It will be 20 years since our son died in April. I still cry sometimes but the pain has eased. Now I am in school to learn to be a grief counselor. I hope you all find peace this holiday season.

    • Totally agree Laurie! We have a number of posts on changing traditions, new traditions and scaling back. For anyone looking, you can click the holidays and special days category to browse all our holiday posts!

  23. I know my Stephen would not want me to skip the holidays so I am pushing onward. He loved Christmas – this makes it easier and harder at the same time.

  24. Laurie Krug, I wish we could talk. I too lost my youngest (of 4) daughter, Laura, 28, on June 22 this year. 🙁 I spent Thanksgiving alone, as all my kids were with in-laws. Everyone was worried, but it was what I needed, just me and our miniature pinschers, Mylo & Gibbs.

    Laura lived with me, was my roommate and best friend. Now she is with her Dad, who we lost my 11 years ago Dec. 2, and my heart is forever broken. December is a landmine of grief for us as Laura’s birthday will be Dec.15, along with the holidays, and Steve’s ‘anniversary’.

    As I walk the dogs and see all the decorations and Christmas trees, I cry, and can hardly look at them. I know I have to be strong for my 3 small grandchildren, and I will be for them, but that is it. Very minimal decorations, just my cardinals, that are my signs of Laura, no tree, no lights out front, just can’t. And candles. Nothing feels right without her. It is even hard for me to go to holiday walks or the zoo. I will only do what I can, people will have to understand. I plan on sharing this article with my family. Beyond them, I don’t really care what people think, I can’t wait until January.

    Very grateful for this website, blog, and podcasts, so very helpful. And for all the rest of the broken hearted parents out there who share.

  25. Last yr my first, was minimal decorations; everything but the tree. I didn’t have to…no kids or traditions that had to be remembered. It was more for me to go with my convoluted thinking that I was acing this widowhood thing. Little did I know…but that’s another post.

    This year I’m past the “I’m acing it” and having been moving forward mostly since last Spring. So this year there is a truer reality and all decorations went up and a few new ones were added!

    BTW in case it’s a help to any…many yrs ago after we lost our first child it was hard not to put her stocking up with all the others but it was also just as hard to see her name everyday. So we put it behind our other daughter’s stocking so just the immediate family knew her stocking was there. And we could each remember her when we needed or wanted to. So last yr even with my husband’s stocking I put it up behind mine. And it makes me happy to know that he is always there as the child we lost is also! ⚓️??

  26. I’m taking a vacation, but taking my Dad’s binoculars and bird-spotting book with me. My dad loved birds.

  27. Our daughter, our only child, died in June of this year. She and I always decorated the tree together. I’d always bought her special ornaments every year to commemorate her achievements. Just can’t even THINK about how difficult it will be to trim the tree this year without her. And I am absolutely not doing it…this year. Next year? We’ll see. I do have a few small Christmassy things around the house, but it is very subdued and that’s OK. I’ve gotten some crap from some people, but I’ve learned in the past few months that I’ve got to do what feels right for me, rather than make other people more comfortable. Her 23rd birthday is also this month, so December is just one big grief bomb.
    Thank you both for this site. I don’t think I would have survived without your cogent advice. Love you guys!

  28. My daughter died 6 wks ago, and I just can’t face the holiday. We did something different for Thanksgiving, and will be going to the coast for few days at Christmas. I haven’t decorated or sent any cards…. just too sad… everyone understands. Next year i can prob face it. Don’t have a bunch of relatives near, so it is easy to make this decision.

  29. Last hear was my first holiday season without my husband. I did everything the same as always with our families, simply because I didn’t know what else to do. I was miserable. This year I’m going it all solo. I very recently moved 800 miles away, so everyone has accepted the excuse that it’s too expensive & difficult to travel again. No children, so no special arrangements to make. For Thanksgiving I made a special meal for myself while watching the parade. Then I served it on the good china. I did exchange several texts with my mom & mother-in-law. I’m thinking of doing something similar for Christmas. Church in the morning & watching favorite Christmas movies while cooking. Next year I might be ready to be sociable again, but this year I need calm & quiet.

  30. I ignored thanksgiving. ..which was ok for me but hard for a friend who is also grieving, so for Christmas I will be with thi…after working that day (it’s my holiday to work)

Leave a Reply to Valerie Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


WYG provides general educational information from mental health professionals, but you should not substitute information on the What’s Your Grief website for professional advice.

See our terms and conditions here

See our privacy policy here

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1-800-273-8255


Share Your Snapshot

Grief In 6 Words

Submit a Story to Us

What's Your Grief Podcast

Listen to our podcast