especially important, and meaningful, if the loss is recent. "Honor the one who is not there, and embrace what no one got to experience about that person but you. That may entail going to the gravesite, or to where the ashes are spread," Cecil-Van Den Heuvel says. "You can even do a ritual of saying one thing about that person that they would have brought to the holiday if they had been there." journaling if you are thinking a lot about your loss as a way to explore and express your feelings. It's O.K. to be happy Don't be afraid to take part in fun holiday activities, and don't feel guilty if you do find yourself having a good time during the celebrations. "Enjoy the presence of those around you," encourages Cecil-Van Den Heuvel. It's O.K. to be sad Don't set yourself up Pretending to be happy and cheerful, especially after a recent loss, can be a tremendous strain. "If you choose to be melancholy and sad, that's O.K. - you need to mourn. A lot people walk a wide circle around it, but everyone deals with grief and loss differently," Cecil-Van Den Heuvel says. "You don't have to do the 'chin up - everyone has to be happy' routine." She also recommends Cecil-Van Den Heuvel believes it is easy for those who are grieving to set themselves up to have a bad holiday. "People anticipate what they're going to feel and set themselves up to some degree to have a horrible time," she explains. "Do not set the stage for what the day is going to be like. Just allow it to be what it is." She speaks of her own experience dealing with the loss of her husband. "There were many times that I thought 'This is going to be the hardest year' because it was the fifth anniversary of his death, or some other milestone. And, many times it turned out not to the hardest year despite those milestones - but it could have been a hard year if I'd pushed it. Don't choose to go in the black hole and stay there." Be authentic to yourself Being authentic to yourself is the most important aspect of grieving during the holidays, or anytime. "Allow yourself to feel the pain so you can integrate it into your life and learn and grow from it," she says. "Nobody wants to suffer, but suffering has its purpose, and that purpose is growth. There is always going to be life and death, and we need to grow from grief rather than being victim to it."