Surviving the Holidays

How many times has someone asked you,  “what are you doing for the holidays?” The idea of making plans without your loved ones this year is difficult and at times can feel like an impossible task. Focusing on what feels best for you and your family is incredibly important. Give yourself permission to “just be” and forego any big plans, if that is what feels right to you and your family. It is okay if you want to start a new tradition this year and find a different way to honor your loved ones this season.


For the past few months, we have been talking about the holidays in our children’s and adult groups. We have shared special holiday memories, made memory ornaments/door hangers, and honored our loved ones with our candlelight remembrance ceremony at the end of each group night. During this time, we have shared ways families are “surviving the holidays, ” creating new traditions, and finding needed support to help them through this holiday season. Many families are creating new traditions to include their loved one in their holiday planning. One special holiday tradition, that many families have included over the years, is including their loved ones’ stocking each year. Family members write a special memory or message to their loved one on a small piece of paper and put it in their loved ones’ stocking. They can read the messages as a family each year. Some families shared this has been a time-honored tradition and a great way to include their loved one for years to come.

Over the years, we have talked about many ways to cope during the holidays and have shared a special reading called, “The Griever’s Holiday Bill of Rights” by Bruce Conley:

  • You have the right to say, “time out”. Take a time out to blow off a little steam, step away from the holidays, have a “huddle” and start over.
  • You have the right to tell it like it is. When people ask, “How are you?” you have the right to tell them how you really feel, not just what they want to hear.
  • You have the right to some “bah humbug” days. You don’t have to be jolly and upbeat all the time.
  • You have the right to do things differently. There is no law that says you must always do the holidays the same way. Do 10 cards instead of 100, or no cards at all. Eat pizza instead of turkey!
  • You have the right to be where you want to be – at home or with relatives or in the city or state of your choice.
  • You have the right to some fun. When you have a day that isn’t so bad and you feel like doing something fun, then do it. Don’t be afraid of what someone else will say or think. Laughter is just as important as tears.
  • You have the right to change direction mid-stream. Holiday grief is unpredictable. You may be all ready to go somewhere or do something and suddenly be overwhelmed. When that happens, it’s okay to change your mind. There’s plenty of time in life to be predictable. Exercise your right to change when you need to.
  • You have the right to do things at different times. Go to church at a different time. Open presents at a different time. Serve your meal at a different time. Go to bed at a different time. Don’t be tied to the holiday clock.
  • You have the right to rest, peace and solitude. You don’t need to be busy all the time. Take a nap whenever you need to. Take time to recharge your spirit.
  • You have the right to do it all differently again next year. Just because you change things one year does not mean that you have written it in stone. Next year, you can always change it back or do it in yet another new way.

Adapted from Handling the Holidays by Bruce Conley


As you approach this holiday season, know that you are not alone in this journey. Find those that can be present and meet you where you are in your grief.  Ask your children what they want to do or what they don’t want to do and know that you can ALWAYS change the plan!

Dana Minor, M.S., LPC-S, CSC

Dana Minor, M.S., LPC-S, CSC

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