When You Dread the Holidays
This week begins a long ramp of dread for many folks -- starting on Thanksgiving and ending on January 2nd. If you have experienced loss, or great disappointment -- the Holiday Season can feel like a time to survive, not one to enjoy. The added press of commercialism in tough economic times, or relatives who seem determined to be difficult can just add insult to injury.
Many years ago, I went through the first days of divorce just before Christmas. I still don't like to remember that time. Christmas was also my Mother's favorite holiday, and every year since she passed, I miss her sorely -- especially around that time. But my story is no different from millions of others. The world presses us to feel one way -- when we really feel another.
The annual holiday onslaught of ads, made-for-TV-movies and decorated everythings can start having an impact on how we feel before we even notice. A friend of mine started feeling blue in early November and didn't know why. Suddenly it hit her -- "Oh yes, the holidays are coming!"
It's not easy.
A lot of BlogHers are having tough times this holiday season.
ETWBOK in ETWBOK's Blog finds herself in the heart of the struggle, dealing with loss and change in difficult holidays:
So I am trying to manage. In fact, I do just that. I manage to get through. I get a meal on the table. I give thanks for what blessings I have. I smile. I decorate for Christmas (not nearly like I used to, it's just not the same fun) I shop for special gifts and find some joy in the giving by buying for those less fortunate. It is just such a relief when it's all over. I can't wait for the day when the new situation becomes the new normal.
So what do we do when the world around us is pushing us one way, but our feelings are pushing us another? Well, there are lists of things we can do -- and some of our BlogHers have provided them.
In addition to a long list of fine suggestions about how to handle the holidays when you are grieving, Pat at From Pain to Peace says:
Remember to just take one day at a time. Do things in small doses. Be gentle with yourself. Accept you may have limitations and can not do everything as you have in the past. Whatever you decide to do this year can always be changed when you are ready to make other changes. Oh, did I say be gentle with yourself? That is key to making the best of a most difficult period. Remember you have lost someone important to you, but you have not lost everything.
BlogHer's own Melissa at Stirrup Queens has written a great Holiday Survival Guide, and with her usual wisdom says that we do harm to our children by perpetuating a myth of happy and perfect holidays where no one has or should have a sad feeling:
They should know that sometimes things suck, and sometimes, you have to feel what you’re going to feel while things suck. That it’s okay to mourn and it’s okay to cry and it’s okay to not pull yourself up by the bootstraps based on someone else’s timetable rather than your own.
Stacy Lu in Saying it Out Loud mourns her mother every Christmas. She provides a touching and helpful list of things and feelings that she is committing to this holiday season, and says:
For too long I was focusing on loss, loss of my mom and loss of who I was before her illness and death. I had closed off a part of myself but didn’t open a door to anything new. I needed to create new traditions for Christmas and see the season with new eyes. Reinventing yourself or your meaning of the holiday season can happen at any time, in little ways. It doesn’t have to be enormous to be effective.
These lists are very helpful and each is different from the other. But there is something they have in common. And that is that it is OK to take yourself seriously, to realize that this year times are not always going to be full-tilt-boogie-joyous. You are not supposed to be the flawless, impervious Stepford mother/wife/lover/friend. You are supposed to be like the rest of us -- imperfect, flawed, moved by life, shaped by gains and losses, a work in progress.
But these BlogHers also emphasize that it is good to take joy where you can find it.
I have a hard time missing my Mom, for example. But over the past few years I have turned some of that grief into gratitude that I had a Mom worthy of missing, gratitude that she was in my life, that we did work hard on a good relationship, and that I was loved. So now my "How sad I am" gets mixed in with "How lucky I have been". It's not Norman Rockwell, but it helps get me through.
Everyone with tough times during the holidays needs to find her own way through, but no one has to find it alone. Ask for help when you need it.
People around you may only see your "brave face" and not guess for a moment that you are having a hard time. Let trusted friends and family know. If you are alone, invite yourself over. I'm serious -- people may assume you have plans when you do not.
Take care of your precious self. Get more rest, take more time, find ways to ease your burdens.
If you are a person of faith, pray into the sorrow -- ask God or the Universe to lift the worst part of it for you. Ask for help in growing your ability to accept what has happened, even if you can't do that yet. The deepest prayer is only one word long -- "Help."
Meditate if you are so moved, into all for which you can be thankful. Let the volume of those good things in your life also play in the background of what makes you sad. Know that there are good things in your life, that what is making you dread the holidays is not all there is.
And help others. If you are reading this, there is probably a message in it for you or you have been through rough holidays. How did you cope? What did you do that helped you get through it? What hope can you offer others?
~~ Contributing Editor, Mata H. also blogs right along at Time's Fool