The merriest time of the year offers opportunities to celebrate the season with family and friends. Submerged in lights, décor, food, and drink, we toast to the bonds between one another and the hope of a bright approaching future.

But along with the festivities, we are painfully reminded of loss and hardship. Loved ones who no longer share a seat at the table, struggles with emotional or physical pain, differences and disagreements, and the trials and tribulations of a very complex and diverse world prompt raw, open wounds that can ooze more than usual in the midst of merriment. Few of us escape this life without such pain to some degree. I’ve been there myself on multiple levels and through many, many, many of my years.

Experiencing the painful emotions is natural and necessary, however, there are some ways in which we can ease the pain. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Focus on our blessings. Even in the darkest of nights, bright stars shine. Contemplate upon the good things we have, and give thanks for them.
  • Help those less fortunate. There are always people who have greater problems and fewer gifts. We can volunteer at a shelter and donate to organizations that assist those in need.
  • Reach out to a lonely neighbor. Be present to those who are alone and lonely.
  • Pray for those in physical or emotional pain. Prayer works. Shower others with the positive thoughts, words, and energy we can send.
  • Smile. Our mood changes when we smile. It’s such a simple little way to lift our spirit.
  • Remember and give thanks for the good times in the past. We focus so much on what was lost, but rarely do we look back with appreciation and gratitude.
  • Pamper ourselves. A luxurious bath with fragrant candles, a special treat of a chocolate, or a few minutes to savor the soothing warmth of a cup of soup or beverage can heal and rejuvenate.
  • Exercise. Exercising releases happy endorphins, loosens up the muscles, and gets that oxygen flowing.
  • Meditate. Concentrate on slow, even breaths while allowing your mind and body to relax and release the tensions of the day.
  • Remember that you aren’t alone. There are people all around you who will be there for you. You only need to call on them.
  • Read. Read books that offer hope and inspiration or an escape into a fictional world of fun.

*Grieving with Mary is my all-time best-selling book since it was first published in 2009. Perhaps you know someone who can identify with the suffering and yet trust of Jesus’ mother discussed in this book.

*We all care for someone at some point. Inspired Caregiving was written for the caregivers in your life.