Happy (?) Holidays. When grieving, the holidays can feel anything but happy. If this time of year makes you feel lonely, disconnected, resentful, overwhelmed and anything but festive and joyful… breathe and get creatively empowered. Create lists of books you have always wanted to read, movies you have wanted to watch (or rewatch), podcasts that you just haven’t found the time to listen to, places you have wanted to explore, food you have wanted to try. Gift yourself the notion of “I choose to” rather than “I have to”. Choose to nurture, recharge, and embrace the holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s) as a time for self-care. 

Before the holidays arrive take time to consider what you would like to choose for yourself. New traditions? New location, meal, guests? Maybe you will choose to visit old friends, share the holidays with new friends, or get a hotel room, room service and a movie for yourself. Perhaps this year instead of going to a family meal that triggers your grief you will choose to volunteer. If being in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is too overwhelming and you just don’t have the bandwidth to buy gifts, send an email to family and friends suggesting that this year instead of buying gifts you will get together and make legacy gifts. Record family and friends sharing their favorite memories, write your story, share favorite recipes, create photo books or collages, gift your favorite book with a handwritten message inside, create playlists of your favorite songs, make cards that describe why the other is meaningful to you. Gifts of remembrance can be especially meaningful during the holiday season. Create memory books about your loved one’s life, playlists of their favorite songs, make donations in your loved one’s name (donate to the Humane Society if your loved one was an animal lover, to the Foodbank if your loved one was a foodie, to the library if your loved one was an avid reader…) find ways to honor their life, how they lived, what they enjoyed. Prepare their favorite foods, honor their favorite holiday traditions. First and foremost, honor yourself. There is no right or wrong, remove should from your vocabulary during the holidays. Give yourself permission to make the holidays your own.

If you are alone during the holidays and do not wish to volunteer or connect with others, go to a movie, on a walk, or curate a day that would feel comforting and satisfying to you. Turn off social media and turn into what you choose for your own self-care. 

 The holidays are the perfect time to practice grace and forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean excusing, condoning or ignoring wrongdoing it means releasing the burden of anger, creating space for personal peace, letting go of resentment in order to heal and move forward. It can be personal or shared as forgiveness is more about energy than actual words expressed. Make the choice to let go of unfinished business that can no longer be resolved. The pain happened in the past, not the present. Focus on your personal growth and healing. Notice how your self-talk makes you feel. How replaying and recycling pain and anger keeps you stuck in negativity. You have complete power over your thoughts so practice shifting the focus from other to self. Focus on your resilience, strength, courage, goals. Forgiveness and grace are the most powerful gifts you can give yourself.

The holidays happen in spite of us, and in spite of our grief, this we can not control. We can control our experience during the holiday season by personalizing this time of year through boundaries and choices that empower, provide comfort, respite and restoration. Choose to give yourself the gift of making the holidays your own.