Holidays bring lots of emotions with them—anticipation, happiness, guilt, excitement, joy, frustration, sadness, loneliness, loss, and grief to name just a few.  The bad news is that the holidays aren’t like a dump cake where you just put everything in, and it all comes out all right.  The good news is that we can maneuver the myriad of emotions and survive the holidays!

How, you ask?  Here are some simple thoughts and actions to help:

-Don’t ignore or neglect your belief systemHolbrook 4 cookies

-Do lean into your faith/beliefs and let the comfort of ritual remind you of your history and your hope.

-Don’t expect everything to be the same as it has always been.  It has been said that the only constant is change so know that change is normal even if the circumstances that brought the change is completely abnormal.

-Do allow yourself to make changes yourself.  Now could be the time to let go of some traditions or develop some new ones.  Maybe just make some changes for this year and then wait and see what next year holds.

-Don’t set unrealistic expectations of your time, money, or energy.  There will always be something or someone demanding more of you.   Believe it or not, everyone has limits, and you are no exception.

-Do realize it is ok to say no—to yourself and to others.  As a friend of mine often says, “No is a complete sentence”.

-Don’t hibernate ALL the time.  Feelings can be fickle and tell us that we just can’t face being out in the hustle and bustle. The truth is we need other people and sometimes just a change of view.

-Do get out of your house.  The mall is too much?  How about sitting at a park for a little while and enjoy the sunshine?  The neighborhood get together is overwhelming?  How about inviting a friend for a cup of coffee?  Do something to get yourself moving.

-Don’t neglect the basics of life.

-Do eat, sleep, move to take care of yourself.

-Don’t think it has to be one or the other.  Sometimes we think that we must behave, believe, in a certain way.  Absolutes in our feelings can lock us into a difficult place instead of moving us through the journey.

-Do realize that it is possible for opposite feelings to co-exist and that it is ok.  We can be sad and still enjoy the look of delight on a child’s face.  We can be tired and still laugh at something funny on tv.  We can be frustrated and still enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.  We can be deep in the bog of grief and still find the hidden gems of joy in the holiday season.

The holiday season can be layers of feelings and emotions.  You don’t have to hide the grief in busy-ness and fake happiness; nor do you have to hide the moments of joy and happiness in some expectation of what grief should look like.  The holidays can be intense, or you can adjust a few things to make them meaningful for you this season.  Tears and laughter, music and silence, comfort of friends and family and comfort of solitude, grief and joy—all can be part of our holiday experience.

There can be much more than HO! HO! HO!


  • Jeana Fortenberry is a licensed minister and one of Family Private Care’s chaplains. She and our other minister are available to talk with our clients, families, staff, and caregivers. If you ever need to talk, give us a call!