Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Yes, You Can Handle That Dreaded Day You'd Rather Avoid

Some days can be brutally tough after a loss, but you can make them tolerable.

171067952 © Dimakig | Dreamstime
Source: 171067952 © Dimakig | Dreamstime

Ugh. That day again. You don’t need to look at the calendar to know that day is approaching between commercials, decorations, and social media buzz. Once upon a time, that day was either special or just another ordinary day in your life. Something happened and life has changed and that special or ordinary day has become a dreaded day, making you want to crawl into your own personal sanctuary and hibernate through it. The first birthday, anniversary, winter holiday season, and other days can be brutally tough when dealing with a loss or big change, such as death, breakup, loss, accident, or date of a traumatic incident. Two out of every 10 women and one of every 10 men experience post-traumatic stress disorder in their lives. The pain might still be raw and fresh, so we walk on eggshells to avoid getting pulled into an emotional spill.

For mainstream holidays, the media drown us in celebration, which sprinkles salt into the open wound with decorations, digital advertising, store decor, as well as our friends’ social media posts boasting five-star experiences. Whereas it might be a struggle to get through that dreaded day, we can still be happy for others while protecting ourselves from triggers.

Triggers are personalized pokers of pain that remind us of whatever was lost. Those days leading up to the day could be one trigger after the next, especially popular holidays such as Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s/Father’s Day. We cannot anticipate everything, because triggers are sneaky reminders that creep up on us like an unexpected fluorescent sign that pops up on the highway.

The legendary expert on grief, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, established the five distinct stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. David Kessler added a sixth stage: finding meaning. Regardless of the stage and amount of time going through it, every person’s journey and process is their own. Here are ways to make it less uncomfortable and more tolerable:

Own that dreaded day by unplugging and sheltering yourself from the media. The media is trying to promote the holiday for commercialism. Unplug, so the media is not there to constantly remind you of what you are trying to avoid. Stay out of stores so you do not have to see all the displays. Use the downtime to do something cathartic, like decluttering your physical space or spending time in nature.

Own that dreaded day by remembering that every feeling is okay. Unfortunately, there is no operational amount of time when we magically feel better. Loss and grief bring a range of emotions with each stage of moving forward and sliding backward. Sometimes we feel like a million bucks after an emotional spill, so allow yourself to let it go.

Own that dreaded day by surrounding yourself with all your favorite things. You certainly need some extra tender loving care right now. This is the time to call on your people to rally around to fill you with whatever nurtures your soul. Heal by surrounding yourself in whatever brings you pure joy, like favorite foods, music, people, and places to visit. Spoil yourself with little things that make you smile.

 185219099 © Renaud Vejus | Dreamstime
185219099 © Renaud Vejus | Dreamstime

Own that dreaded day by turning it into your day. My dad always said, “Distraction is the best painkiller." You might not be spending the day the former or traditional way, but find new ways to make that day your own. Do you. Whether it is a celebration of someone’s memory or launching a new ritual, roll your shoulders back, aim your chin upwards, and celebrate it your way.

Own that dreaded day by supporting others who might be struggling with their dreaded days. Most people cope with some type of trauma or loss. When you know about other people who are going through a tough phase or trying to get past a certain day, be the person they need. Send flowers, drop off dinner, write a note, keep them company, shoot a supportive text, etc. as well as give them extra love and pampering, which will boost your spirit as well.

Own that dreaded day. The goal is to own the day and not dread it. Make it a day to celebrate your way, rather than the other way. The discomfort might be there, but rather than drown in it, use it to launch new traditions. You got this.

Which dreaded day do you need to do your way?

More from Joanne Broder Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today