Tis the season to be jolly – but what if it doesn’t feel like there’s much to celebrate this year?
For a lot of people, the winter holidays are the best time of the entire year. But for some of us, whether it’s a parents’ divorce or a death in the family, it can be really difficult to celebrate when things aren’t going right at home.
I’ve been there. When I was 15 years old, my brother, Jim, was killed in a car accident. And in the moment that the police officers told my family the devastating news, everything changed. It wasn’t just seeing his empty seat at the dinner table, or finding his stocking in our Christmas decorations; it was also how the tragedy affected my parents and my other siblings. Even though the five of us were home together, our house suddenly felt so empty, I felt so broken, and I just wished my family could go back to how we once were.
It can be difficult to watch super happy holiday-themed movies or shows, and It can be even harder to see friends from school post photos of their seemingly perfect families or lavish presents on social media. Here are four things that have helped me find hope during the holidays, and maybe they can help you, too.
1) Do what makes you happy.
You can’t always be everyone else’s cheerleader, especially when you need to be cheered up yourself. So whether it’s baking cookies or watching funny YouTube videos, take 30 minutes each day to do something that makes you smile.
2) Practice gratitude.
Grab a paper and pen or open up your Notes app and make a list of things you’re grateful for. It can be anything from the chicken parmesan your BFF’s mom makes, to the bed you sleep in, to your favorite band. Anytime you’re feeling overwhelmed with sadness, re-read the list.
3) Give back.
You might be unable to fix things going on in your family, but it’s an amazing feeling to help others in need. You can organize a toy drive at school, volunteer and serve meals to those less fortunate, or even go through your closet and donate items that you no longer wear to the Salvation Army. Click here to find volunteer opportunities in your area, and talk to a parent or guardian about ones you want to get involved with.
4) Remember that you’re awesome.
You’re so special, incredible, and beautiful – and it’s not because of the clothes you’re wearing or the number of likes you have on Instagram. It’s because you are you, and there is no one else like you in the entire world. The troubles you’re going through right now might seem overwhelming and hopeless, but they’ll make you stronger, wiser, and more appreciative of the brighter days once they come along. Like Dolly Parton once said, “To get to the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain.” So stay strong, stay beautiful and don’t stop believing. I promise, things will get better – and brighter than Rudolph’s red nose!