8 Strategies for Surviving the Holidays When Life is Hard

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The holiday season is approaching, which usually brings excitement, happiness, and joy. But, when you’re in the midst of struggle, the holiday season is often the hardest time of the year.

Maybe you are adjusting to life as a newly single mom, grieving the death of a loved one, or feeling the sting of a shattered dream. As the rest of the world celebrates, you just want to shut the door and cry.

What matters this year is simply making it through the holiday season.

Today, I’m sharing several strategies that helped me survive the first holiday season after my marriage ended. When I looked at the full calendar, and the invitations, and the traditions, and the family holiday cards pouring in the mail- making it to the new year seemed impossible. But, I did survive, and you will too if you follow these strategies.

© WavebreakmediaMicro / Adobe Stock
© WavebreakmediaMicro / Adobe Stock

8 Strategies for Getting Through the Holidays When Life is Hard

Give yourself permission to just simply survive.

Don’t shoulder the pressure of getting in the holiday spirit. This is one time that the object is simply survival- making it from November to the New Year. That is your only goal.  You can worry about thriving and finding your joy next year. It’s okay to just survive sometimes.

Set realistic expectations for yourself.

This is probably not going to be the best Christmas ever. Don’t plan to bake 15 dozen cookies. Don’t expect to be your usual self. Be prepared to be surprised by your reactions and emotions during this season.

Consider changing the traditions of the past, or at least taking a break from them.

This year, pick and choose which traditions of the past to keep. Let go of some traditions- at least for this year.

Don’t stress over making huge decisions for the future of all holidays. Just because you skip a tradition this year, doesn’t mean you can’t pick it up again another year. If your tradition feels overwhelming and hard, skip it! If it feels like a comfort, then keep it.

As a newly single Mom, I knew my family needed new traditions for our new family dynamics, but the first year isn’t the time to try to create new traditions. The first year, just survive. The time for new traditions will come.

Say No.

Leave yourself breathing room. Don’t say yes to every invitation or every adventure. Trust yourself, say no when you need to, and say yes when you want to.

Have an escape plan.

Your emotions will be sudden, and often unexpected, so having an escape plan is important. You may need to leave a party early, or walk out of a Christmas program.

Be okay with people not understanding.

There will be some people who don’t understand why you can’t just get over it or why you need to do things differently this year. People will remind you, likely often, that God has a good plan for you. Whether or not you believe that right now, it won’t be easy to hear.
Just smile and nod, and find someone else to talk to.

Find and accept help.

Let others step up where you can’t. My biggest blessings that first year were people stepping up to make the holidays great for my children when I just couldn’t do it.

Remember this is your healing year.

Most of all, give yourself grace. Simply focus on surviving to the new year. One year is nothing in the scheme of a lifetime of holidays. Press on – the new year is coming.


Friend, whatever your hardship this year, I understand the heaviness of the holidays when your joy is gone. Apply these strategies and you will survive the holiday season.

8 Strategies for Surviving the Holidays When Life is Hard

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  1. You are my new hero! I’ve always said that mothers are the strongest people in the world but you give it new meaning. I appreciated this post. We have 3 kids now and I’ve been feeling overwhelmed because on top of the typical stress we moms have at the holidays, we were also dealing with some serious family drama from my husband’s side of the family which put a damper on holiday plans. We were the ones who lost out on seeing cousins who live across an ocean because we took a stand against the abuse. And as that goes, sometimes the ones taking a stand against the bullies still suffer because then they are no longer a part of the family who still gets together because they are still willing to deal with the crap. Anyway, I certainly didn’t plan on pouring all of that out in a comment, but there it is. I had to let go of a lot of things this Christmas because of the stress. But we still got through it and the kids had fun. We’ll tackle all of the traditions next year. Best of luck to you and your beautiful family in the new year.

    1. I’m sorry you are dealing with family drama, especially over the holidays. That makes it twice as hard. Praying next year is much better for you!

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