‘Tis the season to feel like a snowflake—either floating on air or somewhere adrift. Don’t be surprised if you shift between Bill Murray in “Scrooged” and Will Ferrell in “Elf,” depending on the holiday shopping list, family obligations and year-end work deadlines. Give yourself some holiday grace.
However, if “I’m fine” is the track you have on repeat this holiday season, I want to speak to your heart. It’s ok not to be fine or merry. It’s ok to dread aspects of the holidays because they remind you of a loved one who passed, a partner who moved on or a time since passed. In fact, the holidays can feel downright uncomfortable, even painful, to someone in grief.
You’re not alone. You’re still healing. You’re human.
Please keep a few things in mind:
- Surrounding yourself with support is important. Shutting yourself in, pulling away from all events and closing the blinds to the world will only exacerbate your hurt. Perhaps, whittle down your social calendar and take it slow. Certainly you can step out of the hustle and bustle for a breather. But please lean on family and friends (or even a grief support group) to offer buoyancy through the holiday season.
- Expecting too much of yourself is draining. Sure you used to decorate the house, do all the shopping, have 20 people over and throw the best NYE party . . . before your spouse died. Now, choose the things that feel manageable and begin there. It’s the partridge in the “pared down” tree approach and it works to limit unnecessary stress.
- Putting on a happy face is not a gift to anyone. Despite the pressure of society , you don’t have to paste on a smile and pretend to be ok during the holidays. So many grieving souls feel the expectation to “get better” or “move on.” That’s not healing, it’s acting. I’m not saying you should play on the sympathies of others or wear black to every holiday party. What I am saying is that responding with “I’m taking it a day at a time” or “I have my ups and downs” (perhaps include a “thank you for asking”) is an honest alternative to “I’m fine.”
The holidays are not easy for everyone—believe me, I’ve been there several times. However, being real with yourself and trusting others enough to be real with them is two gifts in one.