In 2016, my dad passed away and my world was changed forever. When I think about it, nothing has ever felt the same, felt as happy, or as good as it did before 2016. The one thing that definitely didn't feel the same was the holidays, or any celebration, including my birthday.

At the beginning of this year, my family was dealt with another hard card when my aunt passed away and we've been dreading the holiday season ever since January. It's also the first holiday season I'm single in a few years, so there is loss all around because loss doesn't just mean death. 

I've been thinking about this post for a while and in a way, this is the perfect year to talk about it. We're all going to be celebrating the holiday differently and you might find some comfort in having to deal with your loss in this vastly different holiday season rather than if everything was merry and bright. 

These are the tools that have worked for me over the years when it comes to celebrations and the holiday season. I'm not an expert nor am I a doctor but wanted to just offer advice to anyone who needs it. I am also someone who loves the holiday season, despite everything, so I am pretty good at dusting myself off and powering through... if you are not that kind of person, please don't take offense to any advice offered. 

Days Leading Up to the Holiday

Let Yourself Feel

The first Thanksgiving without my dad, I woke up crying. I could cry thinking about it now. I cried for the majority of the day and would sneak away into my room to sit and cry, thinking about how everything was different and how much I missed him.

I think my mistake was trying to make the day feel normal. I did all my normal things: woke up, had coffee, snuggled up to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade but at some point, it hit me that nothing was normal and that I was suppressing my feelings. 

Your feelings are valid, always remember that, but when it comes to personal loss, your feelings are more than valid -- they're raw and real and warranted. In the days leading up to the holiday, let yourself feel those emotions. Try your best to not push them down or distract yourself... feel them and let yourself cry. Throw a tantrum, scream into a pillow and let it all out. You will feel so much better afterward and it is your gateway into 'normalcy'.

Write It Out

I'm working on another post dedicated to journaling but wow, writing out your feelings really does wonders. When I'm feeling down about my grief, I write it in my journal. I might frame it as a letter or just let out my frustration about how they aren't here anymore.

Honor Your Loved One

I like to take a few personal moments to honor my dad (and this year, my aunt). Whether that's just saying a prayer, talking out loud to them, or wearing something that reminds me of them,  it helps me feel close to them and helps me channel my grief in a physical way. 

My dad & I

On the Actual Day

Focus on Something You Enjoy 

On the day of the holiday, whether it's my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter, I always wake up feeling a little 'blah'. I might cry and let it out, but then I get into the holiday spirit because I know that's how my dad would want it... it's also just who I am. I love the holidays so much and I have tried to not let my grief change that. 

I do all the things I love and that really brings me joy, whether it's a delicious holiday breakfast, helping to cook or bake, or watching a movie. In a way, I have started my own personal traditions (outside of what my family & I do) because it helps me deal and put my energy toward something that is specifically for me. It makes me feel happy, centers me, and helps me stay in the moment. 

Take Time Away from the Celebration

As I mentioned before, on the first holiday without my dad, I needed a lot of time to myself. I am an introvert and even being around my family for too long mentally exhausts me so I always am hiding (whoops) but on the day, if you feel yourself getting overstimulated or just sitting in sadness, excuse yourself and be alone. It'll help recenter yourself and if you feel like you need to cry, let yourself cry. It's ok.

Don't Retreat

However, in the same breath, do not retreat into yourself. Participate (as much as you feel as you can) in festivities and be with your other loved ones. Be as present because staying within yourself might do more harm than good. You need to be around others, even just a little bit, and your other family and friends want to be with you and help you through this. They might even be experiencing the same feelings you are, and you all need each other at this moment. 

What I Don't Do

*One thing I try to NOT do on the day because it makes me feel horrible is to tell stories about my dad. I do not like reminiscing because it feels like a dark cloud on the day. This is a very personal thing and I know won't work for everyone but I felt like I should tell you. However, the first holiday season, I think we did talk a bit because it was weird *not* to, if that makes sense. It makes it much more real when I'm trying my best to enjoy the day. I'm also not great at containing my emotion in front of others so if we're eating dinner and we start to talk about my dad in a 'he's not here' kind of way, I kind of lose it. 

If you are someone who does not want to talk about your lost loved one, make that known, or just remove yourself from the situation. Don't feel embarrassed or guilty for not wanting to talk about them on a day you want to try to keep upbeat and happy. It is your right as a grieving person to deal with how you see fit. 

If you're not dealing with death but a different type of loss...

Acknowledge the loss. Don't bury it and let yourself feel sad about that person not being in your life. But also, try to not focus on feelings of guilt or wondering what they are doing. Don't reach out to them if you haven't been in contact and acknowledge that the chapter is over. Be present in what you are doing with the people still in your life and maybe ask a family member to tell the others to not bring that person up. Next year will be better and you most likely have put that relationship completely to rest at that point. 

I know some of this advice is common sense or might've sounded repetitive but I just felt like everyone could use a little extra help this year.


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