Let’s face it – the holidays are not always “the most wonderful time of the year”. They can be stressful for everyone. We’ve got societal, family, and our own unmet expectations we’re balancing.
On top of all of that, even though it’s been almost 20 years since my daughter Alison died, I still also carry the weight of her not being present during these significant family times. So through the lens of my experience, here are things I try to address and do to make the holidays better:
- Face the Obvious Hole – There’s no ignoring not buying gifts, the empty seat at the Thanksgiving table, or the lack of Halloween costume. So what do you do about the hole? I try my hand at…
- Creating New Memories – You know you should celebrate somehow, but how? Each year I try new things and see what sticks. You can also listen to this great podcast where my friend Allison (great name right?!?) talks about her Christmas Gratitude Inn.
- Stress of Perfection – For some crazy reason many of us place an expectation of perfection around holiday celebrations. We place it on ourselves, the “scene” we attempt to create, others around us, and how we are coping with our loss. I ask myself what I’m hoping to feel from that perfection, and find realistic ways to create that feeling.
- Watchful Eyes – Family and friends who love you will be watching to see how you’re doing. On the one hand it’s nice to know you’re loved. It’s also stressful and uncomfortable knowing you’re under the microscope. And maybe they’re aren’t actually watching you. Either way, ask yourself if there’s a way to accept the love and let go of the rest. Give yourself permission to be exactly where you are and letting that be okay? You can even consider…
- Setting Boundaries – Now more than ever you need the time and space to do and feel whatever you need. And you may also feel more depleted from the get go. So before you’re in a stressful situation, consider managing expectations. Let your loved ones know what you’re up for, and what you aren’t.
- The Unknown – Every year can hit you differently. That’s okay – give yourself the grace and understanding to take care of yourself and fill your cup as needed.
What I’ve also discovered over the last twenty years, is that thankfully there are ways to navigate through each item on this list. For today please know you are loved, you are not alone, and your experience is normal.