What to do when the holidays aren't happy...

 Holidays can often bring despair instead of joy...so here's how to feel better

Holidays can often bring despair instead of joy...so here's how to feel better

Just a note to those who may be hurting instead of happy this holiday season...

...and I count myself among them.

Having lost a brother and a sister (in addition to my dad, and now my mom) -- I know too well how sadness can drain the holidays of their bright lights and cheer.

The intense pain and loneliness can make you feel like you want to stay in bed with the covers pulled up.

"Just wake me after New Years!"

I totally get it.

In fact, I'm something of an expert in grief (though I  wish it weren't the case...)

Sometimes grief is magnified by certain dates around the holidays as well.

For me, Dec 26 is particularly painful because it's when my Dad passed away...and my brother-in-law had a stroke, which eventually claimed his life.

It makes the holidays extra hard for me.

Many people reading this message are nodding  their heads, because they know exactly what I'm
talking about.

How in the world do you get through these times?

Everybody grieves differently, and some losses  are harder to bear than others.

Here are a few ideas that could help you (or someone you know who may be hurting) get through the holidays and look forward to brighter days ahead.

~ Don't isolate yourself. Staying in bed under the covers may sound appealing, but generally being with other people can give you a lift and at the least be a distraction. Don't wait for the invitations to come; seek out opportunities to visit friends and family.

But, be sure to give yourself an "out" if you're just not up to the entire visit.

That might mean driving yourself to the event so that if you feel like leaving, you can do so easily.

~ Be flexible on traditions. You don't have to do things the same way as before. Start a new tradition or just scale back this year. Or don't do anything!

Or, you may want to continue a cherished tradition in honor of your loved one and experience it for them. 

I do this in my mom's honor when I go to look at spectacular Christmas lights in certain neighborhoods. My mom loved doing that and would clip our newspaper articles listing the most decked-out homes, and we'd go be dazzled. Same for the annual Christmas boat Parades. She really loved seeing those boats parade in Dana Point Harbor, and when I watch now, I feel like she is there with me.

Is there a holiday tradition you could do in honor of your loved one?

~ Don't anticipate what your emotional response will be. This is the main lesson I have learned myself. I used to think, "Oh, I'm probably going to be really sad..." or "That won't be as fun as it used to be..." or "I'm sure I won't feel comfortable ...."  But the truth is, we don't know how we're going to feel or respond until each moment occurs.

Unless, however, you "will" yourself to feel a certain way. These days, I go with an open mind and calm heart (which I develop through prayer, meditation, reflection, breathing...) and then I can be surprised and delighted at what occurs.

~ Honor the memory of your loved one. You might like to light a candle, recite a favorite prayer or poem and acknowledge the life that impacted you. You could do something your loved one enjoyed, or make a donation in their name. Or, just reflect on a special favorite memory that brings healing to your heart.

My best tip of all?

Right when I don't feel like doing anything at all, I look for ways to be of service to others.

It's been my experience that nothing heals the hurting heart more than helping others less fortunate. 

Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Sign extra Christmas cards and take them to a nursing home. Donate food. Collect blankets for shelter animals or volunteer to walk a shelter dog*

Isn't it amazing how we are designed to be in community with others? And how the adage, "It is better to give than to receive" really is true? 

Because in the giving, we get so much in return.

That is what I'm going to focus on these next few weeks.

...and I'll let you know how it goes.

One more thing: do something nice for yourself as well.

Be kind and patient -- and yes, compassionate -- with YOU!

It's so so hard when "life-as-we-know-it" has been shattered.

That's when it's extra important to cut yourself some slack, focus on one breath at a time, and try to look ahead to what life has in store for you next.

My hope and prayer is that you'll be able to embrace the new life that lies ahead.

Please keep me in your prayers to do the same.

My next tip will show you how to create more cheerful curiosity in your outlook so you feel better no matter what is going on in your life right now.

Until then, I wish you and your loved ones much PEACE now...and always.
~ Peggy

P.S. I have also learned that joy and sorrow can exist in the same place, at the same time. I know that my loved ones would not want to see me suffering, and that alone encourages me to embrace the new life that lies ahead.

*You can help save lives of abandoned dogs and cats with your
purchase of a Living Swell Christmas Gift Set (almost sold out).
which supports my animal welfare work. So many compassionate
people pull together to save these precious lives of desperate animals
that otherwise would have no hope for survival...could not do it
without your generous caring.

How have you learned to live through the holidays and special events even in the face of loss? Let me know in the comments below...