Christmas is one of the most celebrated- and most dreaded- holidays of the year. Everything about it- the happy family & friends featured in tv commercials, the cheerful decorations and even the joyful songs- can make a grieving person cringe. But what if you don’t feel very merry this year? How do you even begin surviving Christmas the holiday season?

The truth is, you are not alone. In fact, Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. In fact, a reported 36% of American adults report not feeling up to celebrating the holidays due to feelings of loss and grief.

Tips for surviving the holidays when  you don't feel very merry
Tips for surviving the Christmas when you don’t feel very merry

Here are our top tips for surviving Christmas if you don’t feel very merry this year.

Tip #1: Give Yourself Permission

There is no one-size-fits-all advice for coping with grief. Grief impacts everyone at one point or another. And because we are all different, we will all process and experience grief differently. And because we all process and experience grief differently, we all cope with it differently.

During your first holiday without a loved one you may discover that you experience a wide variety of feelings and emotions. Some common feelings include:

  • Not feeling up to decorating, celebrating or even acknowledging the upcoming holiday season
  • Having unpredictable spurts of time where you do feel up to participating in holiday festivities, followed by periods where you simply do not
  • Feeling a sense of obligation to join festivities for the sake of others (such as your children, grandchildren, etc)
  • Experiencing guilt when you do find yourself laughing or feeling good

No matter what you feel up to doing this holiday season, it is important to give yourself permission to only do what you can. This does not mean that the holiday season is any less meaningful to you. It means that you simply choose to respect your current feelings and allow yourself to let go of the additional feelings of grief that participating in the holidays may bring.

Tips for surviving the holidays when you don't feel very merry
Give yourself permission to only do what you can

Tip #2: Give Others Permission

This tip seems so easy, but is so difficult! It is human nature to assume that everyone else feels, thinks and acts like we do. But they do not. And when it comes to grief, no two people are ever alike.

It is common for bereaved individuals to wonder if their family members feel a sense of loss just as deeply as they do. And if you find you have also had the same wonderment, it is important to know you are normal!

Remember, everyone processes, experiences and copes with grief differently. While it is important for you to follow Tip #1 and give yourself permission to cope in a way that is helpful to you, it is equally important to extend that permission to others.

Giving others the silent permission to cope in a manner that is helpful and healthy without negative, comparative or judgmental comments is important. And, if done gracefully, they will extend that same permission to you.

Giving yourself and others permission to grieve in ways that are healthy and helpful will help make your holiday less stressful and more fulfilling.

Note: If your loss is one that others simply cannot understand or do not share, it is important that you give them permission to not understand. This doesn’t mean giving them permission to not respect or honor your loss. But to simply support you although they do not necessarily understand your pain. If they need help understanding how to support you, print off a copy of this previous post to help them understand how they can help you.

Tip#3: Pace Yourself

You have likely heard the advice “listen to your body”. This advice is given when we our bodies are recovering from injury or illness. And that same advice can be given to the person who is grieving. However, rather than listening to your body, you would be simply listening to yourself- mind, body and soul.

Grief can impact you mentally, physically and even spiritually. And these feelings may be heightened during the holiday season.

Listen to yourself and acknowledge your needs. Go at your own pace and do not worry about things that you don’t feel like doing this holiday season.

Tip #4: Create Traditions That Honor & Remember Loved Ones During the Holidays

Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day.


Incorporating a loved one’s memory into your holiday traditions is important to your healing. It may take time to find a tradition that honors your loved one the way you’d like to have them honored. And you may not feel up to doing it this year. However, for those who do desire to honor a loved one this holiday season, here are some creative ideas:

Memorial Poems and Sayings

You may recall from this post, that I love incorporating family heirlooms into my decor. And Christmas is no different. I love the memories that come as I decorate with items that belonged to family members who have passed. Sometimes I do have some “liquid memories” fall from my eyes, but they are healthy and I embrace them.

My Christmas centerpiece each year features a unique metal urn that I received when my step-mother’s quirky aunt passed away. We all have our quirks, right?! Well, this aunt was a single lady who owned a liquor store and packed some heat in huge fur coat! She was hilarious, quirky, kind and an entrepreneurial inspirational.

So when my step-mother graciously asked me if I would like to have anything that belonged to this aunt, I knew I wanted something I could use for Christmas. During all of the holiday stress and chaos, I wanted something of hers to serve as a reminder to be authentically myself- just as she was authentically herself. I chose this brass urn, painted it with red chalk paint and filled it with pinecones.

The Christmas in Heaven poem is short, simple and powerful. I love the message of remembrance and incorporate it into the centerpiece. You can download the one I use for FREE here.

Tips for surviving the holidays when you don't feel very merry
Incorporating family heirlooms into your décor is a special way to honor loved ones

Memorial Candles

Lighting memorial candles has long been a Christmas tradition. In fact, many faiths incorporate candles into their holiday services. Those candlelight ceremonies are symbolic and special. And the same is true for memorial candles.

Lighting candles in memory of a loved one is a beautiful way to honor their life and legacy. And while the appearance of a lit candle is beautiful, the significant symbolism it holds is powerful.

  • The dancing flame on the candle represents a vibrant legacy shining brightly for all to see.
  • Light being given by the flame represents memories serving as a light in what may otherwise feel like darkness.
  • Lingering aromas from the candle represent the presence of loved ones long after their time on Earth has ended.
Tips for surviving the holidays when you don't feel very merry
Memorial Candle Lit in Honor of Hannah Joy Sullivan on Worldwide Candle Lighting Day, Dec. 12, 2021

Honoring Their Memory on the Emerson Monument Memorial Tree

Each year at Emerson Monument Company we sponsor a tree in Downtown Springdale, full of ornaments honoring loved ones.

Emerson Monument Company sponsors a memorial tree every year
Emerson Monument Company’s “I Remember You” Tree

Adding your loved one’s name to our tree is completely free and you can sign up here. Keep in mind, we do have a deadline for adding a name, as each ornament is made custom for them! If you would like to sign up, you can do so here.

What Tips do You Have for Surviving Christmas?

What tips and tricks for surviving the holidays have you collected over the years? Drop us a line and share your ways!


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