64 Reminders if You're Filled With Holiday Dread

Holidays and Special Days / Holidays and Special Days : Litsa

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  1. It's not just you dreading the holidays. The holidays after a loss are always hard. Holiday dread (or at least holiday ambivalence) is incredibly common.
  2. You have survived other hard days.
  3. You will survive this hard day.
  4. It might be ugly. That's okay.
  5. It might be a lot less ugly than you think. That's also okay.
  6. Even though the holidays are always hard after a loss, they can simultaneously be filled with moments of comfort.
  7. When it feels impossible to finish the sentence, "I'm grateful for . . ." this holiday season, try finishing the sentence "I have . . ." instead.
  8. Remember, grief can create tunnel vision on almost exclusively what's been lost. You might have to work ten times as hard to also see what you still have. It's worth the extra work to mine the good stuff, no matter how deeply it is buried.
  9. Holidays are the breeding ground of painful comparisons. This just makes holiday dread worse. Hard as it is, resist the urge to compare your holidays against the past or against anyone else's. You'll do the best you can with what you have, because that is the best you can do.
  10. There is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to do a holiday. Together or alone, traditions or no traditions, try to let go of the shoulds and embrace what feels best for you.
  11. You have permission to change your mind about plans, take breaks, leave early, and prioritize taking care of yourself.
  12. Even though it feels like every holiday song is merry and bright, there are plenty of griefy holiday songs to make you feel a little less alone.
  13. No one can tell how anyone else actually feels from their social media posts. More people are having a hard time than you think.
  14. If social media is increasing your holiday dread, you can take a break.
  15. You are not the person you used to be, and that's hard but okay.
  16. Unfortunately, not everyone in your life will intuitively understand that you are not the person you used to be. That will be hard at first, but it will also be okay.
  17. There is always an exit or a way to take a break, even when you don't think there is, even if you're hosting.
  18. Take a walk.
  19. Hide in the bathroom.
  20. Drive separately.
  21. Call an uber.
  22. You can always skip traditions and revisit them next year.
  23. You can also create new traditions (that last forever or for just this year).
  24. You are not responsible for anyone else's holiday wants at the expense of your own mental health. You might disappoint people, but people will survive disappointment.
  25. People might disappoint you, but you can also survive disappointment (let's be honest, you've survived worse).
  26. Children can still have a magical holiday even when it isn't perfect.
  27. Boundaries are self-care.
  28. It's also okay to flex on your boundaries. That doesn't make you a boundary-failure.
  29. You can be alone and not feel lonely.
  30. And you can also be surrounded by people but feel painfully lonely.
  31. There is nothing wrong with every last item on your holiday table being store-bought and not homemade if it helps cut down on that holiday dread.
  32. Or just go out to eat - from Starbucks to Benihana to Del Taco to Chart House, there are plenty of options at all price points.
  33. Found family (the family we choose) are just as important as blood family (sometimes more important), so make an effort to connect with the people who mean the most to you - whoever they are. Even it if is just a quick text.
  34. A surprising number of movie theaters are open on holidays, so take advantage if you don't want to do traditional holiday things but still want to get out.
  35. The holiday movie releases look *pretty* great this year.
  36. Not a movie person? Don't worry, the 'best podcasts of 2022' lists are up in all the major outlets, so you can binge your day away. Spoiler alert: the What's Your Grief podcast didn't make any lists. Shocking, we know.
  37. You can break a 'culture of silence' in your family. If your family hasn't done a good job of talking about the person or people who've died and that bothers you, let them know. It's easier than it sounds - promise. "Hey all. It makes me sad that we don't talk about John more. I know it's hard, but I propose we all share something that's made us think about him recently - big or small. I'll start".
  38. New Year's resolutions are fully optional. Surviving and finding reasons to get up each morning is accomplishment enough in grief, so cut yourself some slack.
  39. If you don't want to spend the holiday alone, don't assume you're the only one you know without holiday plans. Ask around, and post on social. You might find a pal to spend the day with.
  40. If you're unapologetically spending the day alone, you can still plan for it to be exactly what you want it to be.
  41. Just because people are traveling more for the holidays again doesn't mean that all those virtual holiday tips we all learned during COVID can't still come in handy.
  42. If your drinking is getting a little carried away in grief, the non-alcoholic beer, non-alcoholic wine, and non-alcoholic spirits market has grown by leaps and bounds. There are plenty of options for sober holiday toasts!
  43. People we don't know can still help us feel connected. It's worth chatting with the cashier at 7-11 while you check out and or stopping for a coffee at Starbucks just to be around other people if you're feeling isolated.
  44. The story of a Hanukkah is one of finding oil that burned a light in wreckage, against all odds. If that isn't a holiday story for grievers, we don't know what is.
  45. A full day of good books, good movies, and delicious snacks is a perfectly respectable way to spend the day.
  46. Go outside. For 5 minutes, for 5 hours, whatever.
  47. Winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the longest night in the Northern Hemisphere. As of December 22nd, if you're in the Northern Hemisphere the days are now getting longer.
  48. Christmas decorations aren't all-or-nothing. If you didn't have it in you to pull them out because you were dreading the holidays, you can still pull out one or two items. Or buy yourself one decoration that you love.
  49. If you want to include your loved one in the holidays there are plenty of ways, even at the last minute:
  50. Make a donation in their memory.
  51. Sign up to volunteer somewhere where they volunteered or that meant something to them.
  52. Create a memorial ornament for your tree.
  53. Set their photo out next to your menorah.
  54. Ask people to share a favorite memory of the person with you, in person, on social, or by text/email.
  55. Fill their stocking with gifts you would have bought for them, then donate them to a shelter.
  56. Buy yourself a gift that you think they would have bought for you.
  57. Ask everyone to share one gift the person gave them that they will always treasure, physical or otherwise!
  58. Make a list of the things you loved about them that you want to do more to embody in yourself or to connect with in the new year.
  59. The holidays will never be the same again, but that doesn't mean they can't be happy and meaningful.
  60. If you haven't bought yourself a gift this year and you like this list, we have the perfect gift idea for you!
  61. You're allowed to love and enjoy the day.
  62. It is normal to feel a bit guilty about enjoying the holidays without them.
  63. Remember that your ability to find gratitude and make space for joy in a world without your loved one is not a betrayal. And is really can ease some of the holiday dread.
  64. Your pain is not your connection to your loved one. Your connection to your loved one lives in your memories, in your love for them, and in the ways they live on through you.
We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.

We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.

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8 Comments on "64 Reminders if You're Filled With Holiday Dread"

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  1. Sharron Anderson  January 4, 2023 at 9:50 pm Reply

    I did not celebrate Xmas or New Years and I probably won’t ever again. There is nothing to celebrate. I cannot pretend to feel joy when I don’t feel it. I feel empty, lost and angry. It would be my wish to never feel anything ever again.

  2. Victoria  December 31, 2022 at 3:48 pm Reply

    I was touched my the Hunakkah story. The candle staying lite 8 days. It’s easier to fight when others fight w and for you…but for a Godly outcome…

  3. Polly  December 22, 2022 at 6:58 pm Reply

    I lost my 2 sons Christmas is so hard but I just remind myself it’s only one day.❤

  4. Cindy Spera  December 22, 2022 at 6:53 pm Reply

    Thank you. I am grieving the loss of my mother and would really like to avoid the holidays. I limped through Thanksgiving and am hobbling through Christmas for my grandchildren. It’s difficult for me to even consider your suggestions, but your post was very much appreciated.

  5. Charlotte Erace  December 22, 2022 at 3:03 pm Reply

    This first round of holidays is hitting incredibly hard. It is so challenging to move through the holidays as the now “incomplete” family we are. I resent any and all pictures taken without my dad in them- it almost feels like a slap in the face and paints this picture of a new normal I never wanted to embrace. It is challenging. I think the holiday season can also feel extra lonely because it can feel like no one wants their joy dampened by someone else’s grief. Even the check-ins feel like they have all but stopped. But, I am thankful that I’ll be walking through this weekend with my husband, mom and brothers by my side. We’ll derive strength from each other, and push through as best we’re able. Thank you, Eleanor and Litsa for all you do for our community of grievers.

  6. Linda  December 22, 2022 at 11:43 am Reply

    I thought I could make it through this Christmas but no….yesterday was the beginning of dread…not wanting to do Christmas. My dad died two years ago during Covid. He did not die from Covid but I was not able to be there by his side due to Covid and the restrictions we had on us when Covid first started. That was very, very hard on me not being there by dads side…he died in September and now ALL the holidays are sad to me and make me cry. I try to remember all the good things about dad but it just makes my heart break more. I am not sure if I can ever have a good Christmas again, nor stop crying. I cry every day. Grief is overwhelming. I am trying hard to not let this get to me…but I just wanna skip Christmas. I find no joy in it now.

  7. Carole Baldwin  December 22, 2022 at 11:29 am Reply

    Thank you so very much for sending out your ‘64 Reminders if You’re Filled With Holiday Dread’ today. I am certain it will be a huge aid to many, many widows. My beloved husband died in April this year and I was unsure that I would be able to survive this week but this list has given me hope that I will get through with grace – and growth. Your organization does phenomenal work for the community you serve. As a little gift to myself, I will be ordering your book as soon as I send off this email and look forward to starting off the new year with renewed hope. I sincerely thank you.

  8. Cindy  December 22, 2022 at 9:55 am Reply

    I lost my son 15 months ago. I was intentional to avoid Christmas at all costs this year. That is highly impossible as we all know. My heart was heavy, guilty, and sad about doing this.
    My very good friend shared a story about a lady who had lost her son in 2019. She showed me a photo of her tree. It was absolutely beautiful! Like something out of Heaven! It was a memorial tree for her son! This stirred my heart. The same friend dragged me out to buy a small tree. Thank God for this friend! I have started a memorial tree for my son. I chose red cardinals to decorate it with. I ordered a personalized ornament with his name, Blake, and his dates. I ordered a 2022 ornament and will order one every year with the year on it. It is a beautiful tribute to him. Just doing that small thing lifted some heaviness from my heart. Now, I am acknowledging Christmas and honoring my son. It really did lift my spirits. I hope I have encouraged someone intent on skipping Christmas to consider taking a small step and making a memory tree for their loved one. Merry Christmas everyone🎄


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