Here we are… it’s the Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s holiday season. Again.
Last week I tried so hard to write a blog piece about all the things I am grateful for, a thankful post of sorts. As you can see, I didn’t do it. Let me rephrase that: I couldn’t do that. And not because I don’t have a million things to be thankful and grateful for, it just felt forced. This is our second holiday season without Beans. Throw in some COVID-19 lockdown and limited time with extended family and BOOM, you have a storm of emotions that I simply didn’t have control over.
Grief on a normal day is hard; however, grief during the holiday season is something else entirely. It’s wanting desperately to hang on to the memories and keep everything the exact same, while realizing that it won’t ever be the same. It’s experiencing crushing sadness in the midst of pure joy.
I don’t know if this will help you or not; however, here are a few things that I tell myself, not just through this holiday season, but throughout the year:
Let yourself feel. Last night my family watched “Elf” and if any of you know me, you know this is my absolute favorite movie of all time – like, I could watch it in July it’s that good. This movie brings me absolute pure joy. Last night, while my heart is bursting with joy, I started to cry during the end where they all have to “sing loudly for all to hear” to make the sleigh fly. I don’t know why, it just hit me in the feels. This is the feeling I’m talking about where I literally seem to float between joy and sudden sadness. And that’s OKAY! You have to allow yourself to feel the full range of emotions. The sounds, sights and smells of the holiday season may trigger feelings of sadness, loss, emptiness and anxiety. I read in an article a while back that “time doesn’t heal the pain associated with a loss; it’s what you do with that time that matters. Grief is the process by which you heal.” Rather than try to ignore the grief, we should embrace it.
Set boundaries for yourself. Last year we had plans to meet friends for drinks one evening. The whole day leading up to that singular event was excruciating. I knew I couldn’t do it. My heart hurt too much and I really just wanted to stay home and cry a little, snuggle with my husband and just feel. I tried to bury those feelings all day but in the middle of getting a car wash on our way to meet them, I looked at my husband and he just knew. He texted our friends and cancelled on the spot. This was a lesson for me to make sure that I’m setting boundaries for myself. You are not obligated to do anything, go anywhere or see anyone if you aren’t feeling it.
Honor your memories. Memories are the very thing that keep you solidly connected to those you have lost. It is so critical to continue to talk about your loved ones and cherish all the amazing memories you shared with them. It helps keep them alive so to speak. Christmas was always Nikolai’s favorite holiday and I love that even at 14 he would get up at 3 a.m. to see what Santa brought him and then go back to bed and lay awake anxiously for everyone else to get up. I love to picture his face on Christmas morning. I have a million memories of Nikolai at the holidays and my family will share them, talk about him, remember him and honor all of those memories.
Create new traditions. This one is tough for me as I’m not a lover of change. I thrive on tradition. However, over the course of time, new traditions just start to naturally emerge and someday I will be okay with that.
Ask for help. Last December I was in the absolute darkest of places, a black hole of sorts that I literally could not pull myself out of. I have a dear friend who literally said to me one day, “either you make an appointment with a therapist, or I’m making it for you.” We need these people in our lives. No one ever likes to ask for help. And this is one of the biggest hurdles we as humans must jump over if we are going to make change in this world. We need to admit that we can’t do everything ourselves. It’s okay to ask for help. People, by nature, want to help – it’s who we are. It doesn’t have to be a therapist, it could be a friend or family member. The point here is to reach out. Make the call. Ask for help.
This holiday season is no different than my every day, in that I will always choose joy while recognizing that I won’t always experience joy. I have much to be grateful and thankful for; however, I can also sit in the space of sadness once in a while and grieve my losses. We all feel broken sometimes. Just hold on, joy will always eventually shine through.