Photo of a cruise ship.

When You’re Grieving It’s OK to Skip the Holidays

Photo of a cruise ship.

When confronted with the holidays after someone you love has died, you have three viable options. You can do it differently, do it exactly the same, or do it the same with some modifications.

There are no rights or wrongs. Whatever you decide, you will make a decision that is right for you. It will honor you, the memory of your loved one, and will be respectful of the rest of your family.

Some people choose to do something completely different for the holidays

Since you can’t cancel the holidays, some people choose to do something completely different from how they’ve ever celebrated in the past. Sometimes it is just too hard to face. Planning something different can be a huge relief.

Some people change it up the first year and then resume some old traditions in subsequent years. After a year of something different, some come back to create completely new traditions.

Others find a way of coping that works and continue with it into the future. There is no right or wrong here. There is only your way, and just because you choose to do something once does not mean you have to do it again. It’s entirely up to you.

Here are three popular ways of doing things differently.

1. Take a trip

Some people take a cruise. Others pick a new place and go back year after year, while others choose a new place to go every year.

I recently received an email from a subscriber who said she and her daughter save up all year long so they can go away for the holidays.

Though it may seem extravagant if money is tight, this can be a wonderful way of dealing with the holidays.

I have a friend who took a cruise for ten days before Christmas. She arrived home late on Christmas Eve to be with her son and daughter. By going away when she did, she managed to avoid all the anticipation by basking in the sun on the deck of a cruise ship.

2. Volunteer

Volunteering is a great option whether you decide to do it as a family or on your own. Doing something for others gives us a chance to think about someone else, and almost always lessens our own burdens.

• Feed meals to the homeless
• Deliver meals to isolated elders
• Visit people in nursing homes, hospitals, or assisted living communities • Volunteer at your local food bank
• Volunteer for an organization collecting toys for kids
• Take part in fundraising campaigns for a cause you believe in
• Start a program to address a need in your community
• Host a non-holiday party for others who are grieving
• Volunteer at your local animal shelter

Do arrange your visits ahead of time. Most organizations do not appreciate unannounced visitors. Most will welcome you when they know you’re com- ing.

Not everyone’s interested in volunteering for an organization. Try reaching out to a neighbor who might otherwise be alone. It can make a huge difference for them and make the holiday less desolate for you.

Look around your community for volunteer opportunities. Call the United Way. See what local churches may be doing that would interest you.

Helping someone else gets you out of yourself. It is an amazingly effective strategy for coping with your grief. It works during the holidays and all year long.

3. Go to the movies

Movie theaters are packed on Christmas Day with people who don’t celebrate. Feel free to spend the day taking in a movie or two or three. Make it a movie marathon if you like.

If you don’t feel like going out, you can spend the day watching movies at home. It used to be we had to plan this one and rent the videos ahead of time. Now with video streaming, this can also be something you decide to do when all else fails. It can be a great backup plan.

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