Ask Scary Mommy: Bah! Humbug!

by Christine Organ
Originally Published: 

Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.

This week: What do you do when you can’t get in the holiday spirit? When you’re feeling the opposite of thankful on Thanksgiving? Have your own questions? Email

Dear Scary Mommy,

I usually love the holidays, but I’m really having trouble getting in the holiday spirit this year. The thought of Christmas shopping is overwhelming. I don’t want to go into stores, and browsing on the internet isn’t as much fun. I’m sad that I’ll miss my favorite traditions, like our neighborhood cookie exchange party and Christmas Eve with my extended family. I mean, it’s Thanksgiving week and I’m having trouble feeling thankful. I don’t want to be a Grinch, but it’s a struggle. I want my kids to have good memories of the holidays, but I’m not sure how to make that happen this year.

The struggle is real, my friend. This year has been filled with so much stress and loss that it’s hard to get into the holiday spirit. I find myself feeling a little more like a Grinch than a Cindy Lou this year too. But there are ways that we can get through this, and maybe even have a great holiday season.

My advice is two-fold. First, give yourself space to grieve. Even if you haven’t lost a loved one this year, we are feeling the grief of ambiguous loss this year. We are feeling it hard. We’ve lost stability and routine. We’ve lost beloved traditions. We’ve lost time spent with family and friends. It’s okay to acknowledge those losses. I have found that the harder I try to dismiss the feelings of grief, the louder and more painful they become. So let yourself cry in the bathroom, or write in a journal about all the shitty feelings this holiday seasons. Let it all out, without shame or guilt for your feelings.

Then after you’ve let yourself feel your feelings, move on. Fake it ’til you make it. This might seem to contradict the first part of my advice, but once you’ve acknowledged your feelings, you might need to be your own best cheerleader to pep up your mood. Blast some holiday music. Hang some extra lights. Buy some holiday-scented Christmas candles.

If you reframe your perspective just a bit, you might find that there are plenty of things for you to be thankful for this year. A slower holiday season with plenty of time to enjoy simple pleasures with your family. Your health and the knowledge that by sacrificing your typical traditions, you are literally saving the lives of others. Good friends who are a phone call or text message away, and will be there in person when things calm down. The weirdness of this year gives us a chance to make new traditions in a way we might have been able to do when we’re caught up on the flurry of the typical holiday chaos.

You might find that a few small tweaks in perspective will shift your entire mindset, even if you do still feel sad and grieve the loss of this past year. You can feel both things at the same time. As my mom likes to say, an “attitude of gratitude” really can go a long way.

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