Navigating Emotions This Holiday Season, Are You Healing or Grieving?

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The holiday season, with its twinkling lights and festive cheer, family dynamics, and past wounds, often ushers in a complex range of emotions. And then, adding in aging parents, loss, a cancer diagnosis, and/or a surprising divorce, it seems there is always something to grieve and/or heal from. As we bid adieu to another year, let’s reflect on the journey we’ve undertaken. Congratulations, dear reader, you made it through another holiday season. But now after noticing my own feelings, I am left questioning, am I healing or grieving?


Celebrations, traditions, and gathering with loved ones can be a source of joy and connection. However, the season could also act as a reminder of what once was or what could have been. Making it through the holiday season is an accomplishment, an acknowledgment of resilience in the face of varied emotions. It’s also the perfect time to find gratitude, especially for health, safety, for family, and friends.


For some, these past weeks have been a time of healing. Healing is not always about mending what’s broken but often about learning to live with the fractures. It’s a journey towards understanding, acceptance, and the gradual restoration of one’s sense of self. As a stage IV cancer survivor, I am constantly reminded that I have my health, I have everything I need, and the holiday “dramas” are all part of being alive!


On the flip side, others may find themselves in a season of grieving. I can put myself in this category too. I’m not grieving the loss of a person, but I feel I am grieving the loss of what used to be “normal”, as I see my parents aging and needing more help than ever before. Knowing I can’t have them forever is more on my mind than ever, and I find myself mourning as well as desperately wanting to make every moment count. Which is not easy to do. My way of handling this “sadness” is to stay aware that there is always a gift in our losses. As there is a blessing in our challenges.


My takeaway after this holiday season, healing and grieving are not mutually exclusive; they can coexist in the same heart. My path to healing often involves acknowledging and processing the grief that accompanies change. It’s a delicate dance between honoring the pain and embracing the possibility of a new beginning. Accepting instead of resisting what “is” —is the fastest way to finding peace within. It is very similar to my stage IV cancer journey. I “accepted” my diagnosis, “surrendered” to the moment, “opened up” to receive gifts and blessings, and “trusted” that cancer was an opportunity to heal past wounds.


In a world that often encourages us to mask our emotions, it’s crucial to reaffirm that it’s okay to feel. Emotions are what life is all about! And being able to hold space for every emotion is so important in our human experience. Whether basking in the warmth of healing or navigating the depths of grief, each emotion is a valid part of our journey. Every emotion has a right to exist, and by allowing every emotion to have its “space and time”, we protect ourselves from getting sick, we bring more connection, intimacy, and ultimately, we become closer to knowing the love that exists in our heart.


Weather you are healing or grieving, here are some tips that I have used:


Allow Yourself to Grieve:

Give yourself permission to feel the pain and emotions associated with the loss. It’s a natural part of the healing process.


Express Your Emotions:

Talk about your feelings with someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, family member, or therapist. Expressing your emotions can be cathartic and validating.


Be Patient with Yourself:

Healing is a gradual process, and there is no specific timeline for grief. Be patient with yourself and allow the emotions to unfold at their own pace.


Create Rituals:

Establishing rituals or ceremonies to honor the memory of what or who you’ve lost can be a meaningful way to navigate the grieving process.


Take Care of Your Physical Health:

Ensure you are taking care of your basic needs. Eat well, get enough rest, and engage in physical activities that promote well-being.

Seek Support:

Surround yourself with supportive people who understand and respect your grief. Join a support group or consider counseling if you find it helpful.


Memorialize and Celebrate:

Create a memorial or participate in activities that celebrate the life of the person or thing you’ve lost. This can provide a positive focus amid the grief.



(My favorite!) Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal. This can be a private space to express your emotions and reflect on your journey.


Practice Self-Compassion:

Be kind and compassionate to yourself. Acknowledge that grieving is a challenging process, and it’s okay to experience a range of emotions.


Find Meaning:

Seek meaning and purpose in the midst of your grief. This can involve reflecting on the positive aspects of the relationship or finding ways to honor the memory.


Create a Supportive Environment:

Surround yourself with comforting and supportive elements. This could include creating a peaceful space at home or spending time in nature.


Consider Professional Help:

If the grief becomes overwhelming, consider seeking the assistance of a mental health professional who specializes in grief and loss.


Engage in Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques:

Practices like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga can help calm the mind and reduce stress, making it easier to cope with grief.


Set Boundaries:

Recognize and set boundaries for yourself. It’s okay to decline invitations or activities that may be emotionally challenging.


Celebrate Progress:

Acknowledge and celebrate the progress you make in your healing journey, no matter how small. Each step forward is an accomplishment.


For more information about The Zero Negative Foundation, visit, and check out the book I wrote with my husband, Everyone Needs a Larry, on Amazon. It’s a he-said-she-said story about how we survived love, marriage, and stage IV cancer, and it’s written by the patient and caregiver. We help couples turn their negative cancer journeys into positive, healing experiences!


To a healthy and happy world,

Jenn Greenhut

Jennifer Greenhut Tollin turned her stage IV breast cancer diagnosis into an inspiring, uplifting story. The lessons she learned led her to create Zero Negative (, which promotes love and positivity through accessories. A portion of the company’s profits is donated to UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation to support cancer research. Jennifer’s story and products have been featured on Extra Tonight, Good Morning LaLa Land, the Hallmark Channel, Ventura Blvd Magazine, and in various podcasts. In addition, she was honored by UCLA Health and the Lakers in their Laker For A Day program, sharing her story at a Lakers Game. She was a US National Gymnastics Team member and an actress, singer, songwriter, and yoga teacher.

In addition, she also wrote a book with her husband, Larry Tollin, called Everyone Needs a Larry. Told from both the patient and caregiver perspectives, Everyone Needs a Larry is a he-said-she-said quirky and humorous survival story that shares the mistakes, lessons, challenges, and joys of a couple fumbling their way through love, marriage, and cancer. Whether you face the challenge of cancer or another adversity, Jenn and Larry demonstrate how our scariest times have the possibility to become our greatest chapters. Life is about sharing stories, healing ourselves, and helping others, and now on the other side of cancer, Jenn believes you will always win at life once you LOVE who you are and the challenges that come with being you.

Jenn lives in Southern California with her husband, Larry, and their dog, Bo.Visit and to learn more.

Instagram: @EveryoneNeedsaLarry @LoveZeroNegativeFacebook: Zero Negative

X (Formerly Twitter)- @jennandlarry




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