The holidays are a time for family, friends, and fellowship, but what happens when the holidays are overshadowed by grief, stress, or sadness?

When holidays are not the happiest, it’s important to remember that small tweaks to tradition or being kind to oneself can make the season more bearable.

Practice Self-Care
Self-care has become a buzz phrase these days, and there’s a good reason why. People are beginning to come around to the fact that when you are happy, everyone else is. The holidays are stressful to begin with, but when grief is involved, they can seem unbearable. It’s better not to force oneself to take on all of the challenges that the season brings. It’s okay to opt-out of certain traditions or make modifications when necessary. In cases of grief, it’s also okay to use the holiday season to reflect upon those that we’ve lost. Setting up boundaries and practicing self-care is imperative to working through tough holidays.

Talk It Out
There’s nothing worse than the elephant in the corner, so when it comes to dealing with unhappy holidays, the best thing to do can be to talk it out with loved ones. This is especially important if one has lost a family member during the holiday season.

Of course, if children are present, it’s essential to keep the conversations age-appropriate, but it’s far better to address collective grief than to pretend as if everything is okay. Sharing stories about the person who has passed and discussing feelings of grief can also be exceptionally cathartic for families.

Practice The Tradition Of Giving
Sometimes when things seem at their worst, the best thing one can do is to extend kindness to another person. Giving is a great way to remove the focus from oneself and practice gratitude. The gift or gesture does not need to be that grand, and the joy of knowing that one is making someone’s day can offset the pain of a less-than-happy holiday season. Paying it forward also has excellent benefits in the long run. Giving provides perspective and releases dopamine, the feel-good brain chemical that can help us cope with the problems and challenges in our lives.

Not all holidays are happy, but we can address the challenges with these steps.