Not everyone is feeling blissful during the holiday season. For some people dealing with loss, the celebrations can be a painful reminder of what was, who is missing and what will never be again.

If this is you, please know that you are not alone. As you navigate your heartache during this time of year, many do not recognize that the holidays may be a time of mixed emotions and struggle for you. Especially, if you have been coping well until the season hit. Many clients tell me that they are surprised when their grief resurges at the holidays. And some even doubt their progress. But feeling grief doesn’t mean you’re backsliding in your healing journey.

No matter how well you are doing with loss – whether it’s coping with the  death of a loved one, the ending of a significant relationship or a major life change – it is important to know, you will likely process through the layered emotions around loss at key moments throughout the year. Emotions will ebb and flow. Living a spiritually awakened life, means you are willing to remain present to whatever arises without judgment. Given our current “fix-it” and “release it” culture,  we can be tempted to believe that feeling sad during the holidays is a set-back.  It isn’t. Healing from loss is not a linear experience. It’s a journey woven throughout a conscious lifetime, that deserves to be tended to with compassionate care.

The holidays can be exceptionally difficult to navigate not just because they trigger memories; they are often fraught with expectations of perfection, family connection, prosperity and fulfillment that may not be rooted in reality. Even when events are genuinely joyful, they may sharply counter our feelings of regret, loss and heartbreak. When we are processing complex emotions, we may feel challenged to participate in the season’s celebrations. There are ways to navigate the holiday season with care.

Here are a few tips to help:

  • Validate your feelings.  Do not pretend to feel something you don’t or buy into the spiritually twisted concept that refers to your emotions as “sh*&t to let go”. That notion is not only toxically depersonalizing and inherently shaming, it intensifies loss and disconnection from your authentic humanity.  Instead, be real. Validate and empathize with your emotional state with the tender care you deserve. You actively heal when you give yourself compassionate permission and attention to whatever emotions are present.
  • Set strong boundaries. Participate in gatherings that truly nurture, inspire and are meaningful to you. Tell your loved ones what you need and don’t expect them to guess or get it. Excuse yourself from anything too demanding or uncomfortable. Ask for the care and sensitivity that will help you through the season or specific events from those who can give it to you. Do not allow anyone to talk you into feeling something you don’t or push you into reframing your emotions just to fit their ideas of what grieving or holidays are supposed to look like. Instead, become the impeccable steward of self-care this holiday, by honoring your needs unapologetically. Healthy boundaries are not selfish; they affirm your right and responsibility to self-care with dignity. Boundaries also do not infringe upon others. Establishing boundaries with reverence for yourself and others, will help you nurture your wellbeing as you navigate the season.  Say “yes” to what want to do; say “no” to whatever you cannot.
  • Practice presence. Presence means being with yourself fully, without numbing out. It is the practice of recognizing that you are conscious awareness, having a physical experience. But being present does not require an esoteric insight to master it daily. It’s the art of allowing yourself to witness your thoughts, emotions and body without judgment. Given that our culture tends to perceive certain emotions as negative and urges us to avoid those feelings, this can push us to repress uncomfortable sensations. But thoughts and emotions are merely energy in motion, only charged by perception. When greeted with full compassionate presence, no matter what they are, they pass through us without lingering.The holiday season can be a poignant reminder of what it means to remain present, because its filled with nostalgic reflections and planning for the year ahead. It is also a time when over-indulgence seems synonymous with celebration. As we work to navigate the holidays with our presence, we may be are flooded with expectancy and thoughts about the past throughout the season. Presence means we are here, in our body, experiencing this moment fully. We don’t judge how we are filling or impose unrealistic expectations on ourselves and others. We then drink, eat and celebrate mindfully, knowing that all of encounters of the season and its invitations to overindulge may trigger intense emotions. We practice mindful presence by breathing deeply, calming our body and tending to ourselves with tenderness.
  • Create New Traditions. It can help to engage in rituals that soothe your soul. If you had a habit of celebrating something specific with your loved one who isn’t here, it may be comforting to engage in the same practices. Or you may need replace it with something new. Do what you truly need; not what you think you should do. Cook a new meal; visit special friends or create a sacred gathering to support yourself honorably through the holidays.
  • Create space to honor your sadness. This isn’t an invitation to get lost in grief, rather to honor what is truly missing or has changed deliberately. Take time to discover how you can nurture your loss and reflect on how it has changed you. Note what you have learned and how you are discovering parts of yourself through this change. Some ideas include writing in your journal; meditation; listening to music or taking a mindful walk. Light a candle to symbolize their spirit or the change in your life. Indulge in a creative project that expresses what you’re going through. Engage in an activity that reverently honors you, your loss and those no longer here.
  • Spend time with loved ones.  Connect with people who matter to you, that welcome you as you are and who understand your current status. Isolation can be tempting during this time of year but avoidance brings temporary relief without authentic care. Its ok to watch movies, read a book and pamper yourself in solitude. But include time for meaningful connection to balance the quietude of alone time.
  • Give time and energy to those in need. Serving others has intrinsic value but all altruistic activity brings your soul’s light into the foreground. It activates the inspired heart of your  heart chakra, magnifying your intuition and your connection to Source. It also promotes health in your mind, body and spirit. By volunteering where needed, you are reminded that you are part of a larger web of life. Everyone is walking through life with rich blessings, joyful experiences and pain that isn’t seen by the world. When you show up to give, your heart and theirs move into rhythm of unity that brings all concerned more love, kindness and peace.
  • Give yourself an out. You may be surprised by an overwhelming emotion or encounter at a family gathering or social event. Before participating, have a “plan B” and give yourself permission to employ it, when needed. If unexpected questions or insensitive comments come your way, know in advance how you will respond. If appropriate, set up reinforcements with safe family or friends, to help you through the rough spots.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Even if you do all these tips, you may have some hard moments. Grief can hit us out of nowhere. So be your own best ally. Don’t judge yourself for not meeting your expectations or reacting differently than you imagined. Give to yourself compassionately and generously.  No matter how long its been, holidays can bring up the painful past. You’ve already survived the worst of it: the loss, the break-up, the change. Your power is not diminished by your vulnerability and authenticity: its enhanced by it. Take exceptionally good care of you throughout the holidays and always.

And last, but not least…

  • Lean into the Divine. You are loved, supported and cared for. You are a spark of the Divine Light here to navigate the full-spectrum of human experience. Your angels and divine helpers are eager to nurture you throughout your grieving process. Ask them to help. While they cannot take away the lessons you’re evolving through, they can fill your energy field with healing light and illuminate your process. They can lead you to people, places and things that support you. They can and will, bring calm when you may feel overwhelmed. Call on the Divine, your angels and helpers and know that this benevolent team is on your side, working to nurture you throughout all of life’s moments with loving care.

Whatever you are experiencing, remember you are healing. Your emotions are natural. You have the power to face whatever shows up. Love transcends time and space, no matter what else has happened. Let your heart feel the full range of emotions present within the careful embrace of your compassionate awareness as you ride the waves of loss and change throughout the holidays.