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3 Steps to Take When Holidays Are Tough

By Leslie Moon December 14, 2022 Lifestyle

For many of the women in this community, the holidays are not easy. We may be facing a holiday without a loved one. We might be apart from our families for whatever reason.

We might be having a good holiday season but find ourselves feeling a little blah on and off for its duration and aren’t really sure why.

Here are three things that you can do for yourself this holiday season, especially if you are struggling a bit. They aren’t necessarily easy, but they raise self-awareness. And self-awareness will help you immensely as you navigate the more difficult times in your life.

Take a REAL Look Back at Holidays Past

We may feel sad during the holidays because things have changed and the holidays “aren’t like they used to be.” But, often, when we take a realistic look back at what the holidays used to be, we realize there was always stress or some sort of negative feelings involved at some point, no matter how happy we remember them to be.

There is a phenomenon that occurs in us called Fading Affect Bias. This affects how we hold onto negative memories versus positive ones. Essentially, as time goes by, the negative memories fade or disappear completely, while the positive ones remain.

I found as I reflected on holidays past, I started off thinking about how happy my childhood Christmases were at my grandmother’s. The tree, family dinners, my grandfather playing the piano, and the presents.

I went on to fondly reflect on holidays when I was raising my boys. Shopping for gifts, their joy, decorations, and Christmas parties.

But, as I really dove into the reflecting, I remembered the stress as a kid going to my grandmother’s. My mom was alcoholic and there was a strong possibility that she would get drunk and ruin the holiday. I spent a lot of time monitoring everyone, even as a young child. I loved the holidays. But they were not without stress.

As I thought about our Christmases when my boys were growing up, it was similar. We had wonderful Christmases. But they were not without stress over not having time to do all of the things I wanted to do, concerns around money, and worries about family interactions and dynamics during the holiday.

Realizing that there have always been issues during the holidays can help us put this season into perspective.

Generally, our “holiday feelings” are an extension of how we are feeling overall in our lives from day to day, in whatever phase we are in. They are often intensified with the holiday input from friends, family, and social media.

Allow Yourself to Feel the Feelings

Feeling negative feelings is difficult for many of us on this side of 50. We often try to push them down because they are unpleasant. Many of us have had core beliefs throughout our lives that it’s “bad” or “ungrateful” to feel negatively.

We are told everywhere to practice gratitude as a solution for being sad or angry about a situation.

But things happen in life that make us sad or angry and those feelings are a NORMAL reaction to that situation! It is normal to feel sad when you aren’t going to see your family over the holidays.

So, allow yourself to feel the feelings. Pushing them down only causes more issues, both emotionally and physically.

However, if these feelings don’t go away or are becoming an everyday part of life that keeps you from doing the things that you want to do, it may be worthwhile to talk to a professional. It’s okay to feel sad for a few days because you miss your family, but if the sadness permeates everything, it can be beneficial to seek help.

Do What Feels Good and Right for YOU This Holiday Season

This is the time in our lives, overall, where we should be sitting back and thinking about how we want to spend our days.  

What do we want to do for ourselves?

And that should happen during the holiday season as well.

What would you like to continue to do this holiday season? What do you not feel like doing? I’ve talked to women who don’t feel like shopping and have decided to give their families checks or gift cards. Women who have stopped sending holiday cards. Women who have traveled during the holidays for the first time.

We are at a different phase in our lives than we have been before, and the holidays are bound to have some changes as well.

Take some time this holiday season to reflect on your “holiday feelings” and traditions. And don’t be afraid to start taking small steps towards adjusting what you’d like to.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How are you feeling this holiday season? What changes would you like to see, if any, in your holiday traditions? How is this season different for you?

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What a great article and so timely! For the first time ever I will be away from my husband. I am getting treatment for serious issues in the States and won’t be able to go back to Canada for the holidays. I miss our home snd friends and parties but don’t miss the stress art all. Our sons will be here for part of the holidays but will travel to their spouses’ family homes. I will actually have a week to myself! It was funny, everyone was worried about my being home alone at the holidays but I found I am actually looking forward to it! Having the house to myself, except for their three dogs, in a city with wonderful delivery services is super exciting and yet, calming! Literally, in all my life I have never been alone in my house or anyone else’s! The house is beautifully decorated and in a very safe neighbourhood and my husband has our friends and family in Canada to kept him company. So, a new opportunity for me.

As my beloved grandmama told me,”There are so many ways to have Happy Holidays!”

Wishing everyone a good Holiday Season!


Jennifer, I love the spirit in this comment. Enjoy your time!! Happy happy holidays!


I really needed this advice today !..Thank you .. yes I am struggling very much this year to get in the spirit of Christmas …Attributing to this is the fact that my only Child has moved in with his girlfriend …and this will be the first year in 32 years we wont be together Christmas morning sharing a hug and opening presents. I now live alone …This along with having lost both my parents …leaves a huge hole in christmas cheer …My Son is doing exactly what he should be that is building a life for himself ,and I am happy he is doing this..however it will still a struggle morning.
My thoughts do keep going back to when he was young and the Christmases we shared as a family ,and grandparents …I am trying to work through how i can moved forwards now as i know things have changed as they do ….however it is still a hard challenge.


Sounds like you definitely have a balanced view on the situation but also have the right to feel a little yucky during the holidays this year. Feel the feelings. We miss our kids when they aren’t with us, especially during the holidays.


I have many mixed feelings. I was married to my first husband who is also the father of my 32 year old son. We were married for 20 years and together for three years before we were married. I have wonderful memories of the Christmases and Hanukkahs that we shared. My husband’s family did everything for Christmas I had always heard about. The tree, baking cookies, sending cards, wrapping gifts, going to midnight mass. I loved all of it. However, you are right, I recall those things but not how I would have liked to sleep in my own bed, not travel in the snow, and the stress between my mother in law and myself. Now I am married for the second time and my son is married. We live far apart and he is closer to his wife’s family geographically. In addition, her family celebrates Christmas, where as I celebrate Hanukkah. My second husband also celebrates Christmas but not in the big way my ex did. So I have no issue with my son going to his in laws. It makes me happy to know he is happy. They also have friends there. However, it does make me melancholy that we are not together. I try to focus on the facts that he is very happy, I will see him after the holidays and we will have uninterrupted time.
You are absolutely right about not pushing feelings down. I find writing my feelings and what is going on in my mind in a journal the most helpful. Once it is down on paper, I don’t think about it or ruminate.
Wishing all a holiday season that you enjoy in whatever way that is.


I love that you are aware and journaling on all of the things. Enjoy your holiday, Jessica!


Holidays have become more sad for me as I age. My husband has been dead for 20 years, my daughter is divorced from her husband with a 12 year old son. Her six year relationship with another man ended. I am trying to make the time cheerful, but I think I am not succeeding. I will be over at my daughter’s house for Christmas day, and perhaps we will play some board games, or do a jigsaw puzzle. I find Christmas, which used to be a wonderful time, is becoming a time of dread.


I think this is more common than we realize in our community of women. It’s great to be making the time cheerful, but also acknowledge that it’s not awesome right now. It’s okay to feel those negative feelings too. I wonder if it’s time to create some new routines and traditions around the holidays for you and your family.

Margaret Dennis

I found this article to be extremely.helpful 2 of my three children live away and one invited me to come but I feel less and less comfortable traveling. I am coming to terms with my limitations physically but still feeling joyful!


Have a very happy holiday, Margaret!

The Author

Leslie is the founder of Life Balance After 50 where she uses her background in counseling and behavior analysis to help women navigate their goals and dreams after 50. She created a free mini workbook along with a guide and a full-length workbook for women who are looking to redefine and find joy and purpose in their second half of life. Contact Leslie at

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