The holidays are here and you are feeling less than jolly. I get it.

You are exhausted from participating in the pageantry of the season while trying to carry your heart that is heavy with grief. It feels unfair that you have to work so hard at self-care and demonstrating kindness just to keep yourself from turning into a Scrooge that nobody wants to be around.

Well, you’re right. It is exhausting and it is unfair. I can’t change that, but I can help you lean into the holiday season and use it your advantage.

I have put together some tips for the days when you need a break from the affirmations and the random acts of kindness. This is my alternative guide to surviving the holidays.

1. Embrace the twinkle lights
Let twinkle lights be your friend this holiday season. Bask in their flattering glow and wallow in their dim flicker. Let their tangled masses busy your hands and distract your mind. Crying again? No one can tell by the light of the Christmas tree. They will simply think your face has that perfect rosy hue for the surrounding festivities.

2. Take control of the holiday movie marathon
Just because you’re avoiding the holly and the jolly, doesn’t mean you have to stop watching the holiday movies. I’ll let you in on a little secret: with thoughtful viewing these films are perfect for those times when you are feeling more naughty than nice. Don’t let Ebeneezer Scrooge wake up from his reformative sleep. Fast forward to when Kevin demonstrates why sometimes you should just leave people alone during the holidays. Or, maybe, hold back from letting George Bailey realize it’s a wonderful life and instead take pleasure in his many misfortunes. After all, misery loves company.

3. Go to a holiday party
I know, I know. I almost lost you on this one, but hear me out. Yes, I am suggesting that you go out and be with (shudder) people. But, the people are only one element of the holiday party. Holiday parties also have drinks, excess amounts of sweet treats, and cheese in a variety of shapes and sizes. You will probably have to talk with someone, but simply let them do the talking. As they chat away, keep filling your mouth with whatever form of cheese you are partial to (I prefer my cheese in cubes, easier for gracefully stuffing my face) and just nod and smile. When the conversation starts to take a wrong turn, simply excuse yourself to go get more refreshments

4. Ditch tradition and go rogue.
Channel Frank Costanza and find your own way to celebrate. Maybe your holiday involves watching reruns of Fixer Upper and eating the cheese you smuggled home from the party someone convinced you to go to. Perhaps you want to ring in the season by finally getting yourself that Birchbox subscription you’ve been eyeing. Call up a friend who “gets it” and go pamper yourself. Feeling kind, yet rebellious? Participate in the office Secret Santa by buying for whoever you want but never revealing yourself. If someone questions your methods, simply shrug and say “Hey, it’s the holidays!”

5. Remember to value yourself
I couldn’t finish this guide without the reminder of how important and valuable you are. The holidays don’t suck because your gingerbread house was destroyed, they suck because you are grieving. You are missing the person or people who make you whole and the holidays only remind you how empty that part of you can feel. Whatever you do this holiday season, I hope it brings a glimmer of peace and comfort to your deserving heart.

Originally published on the author’s blog

Rachel Whalen

Rachel Whalen is a writer and Kindergarten teacher who lives and loves in Vermont. She is the mother of two daughters; Frances who is 14 months old and Dorothy who was stillborn two years ago. Her daughter's silent birth has inspired her to use her voice to share about grief, pregnancy loss, and parenting after loss.