When the Holidays Look and Feel Different

12/04/2023 01:49 PM Comment(s) By Jburns

Thoughts on contemplating what's next...

It’s the season of holidays and celebrations. We start in November and continue through January. It can be a time of wonderous joy, miracles and love or a time of loneliness, challenges and sorrow or some giant combination of the two.  Whether your family has grown, you’ve lost a loved one, your relationship status has changed, or kids have left the nest, things this time of year might look and feel different.  And to make it through…you might just need to change it up a little bit.

This November I said goodbye to a colleague and friend who was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer in October and was gone before Thanksgiving.  This was the first Thanksgiving my college age kids were both somewhere else…with family but not with us. It was a great opportunity for them to stretch their wings, make their own plans and spend time with their uncle, aunt, and cousins.  I missed them. It’s ok that it wasn’t the same, it means we’re all growing, evolving. It also means that the traditions we have held so dear may need to expand with the situations we are living in.

Allowing ourselves some grace to honor the emotions and the changes that are occurring and also finding ways to embrace new opportunities.  The first Christmas after my mom died it was really weird, what had been would never be again. We found ways to shake things up and ways to honor my mom’s memory.  She was a "Santa" through to the end. Finding little ways to surprise us when we least expected it.

If you have added folks to your family, how are you finding ways to help them feel included and that they belong.  You may have recently become a step-parent, gotten married, had a child, adopted or fostered a child. Adapting, adjusting, and adding to previous traditions and being open to creating new ones can make all the difference in the world.  Almost two decades ago my family grew when my father remarried, and we suddenly had new siblings and cousins. It was exciting and awkward.

If you are facing the loss of a loved one this holiday season, know you are not alone. Reaching out to friends and family can make all the difference. It can be a certifiable emotional roller coaster, from laughing at holiday movies to crying due to stress and pressure from the season or the emotions from memories so fresh in your mind. Letting your family and friends know how you are doing, where you are at and if you need down time and support is imperative. If you are feeling lonely and isolated, try reaching out to a hotline, a faith-based community or local mental health services. Even being with other people in public places whether you know them or not has been shown to decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation. Finding time to honor your loved one in your own way whether that’s through music, journaling, prayer, crying and/or physical activity is important.

In the midst of the hub-bub, no matter how your holidays may feel different this year I encourage you to find some time to be in nature, to slow down, make a cup of tea or hot chocolate, go for a walk, take notice of the trees, a bush, the birds, a squirrel, the wind blowing across the grass, the sound of water moving, whatever appeals to you most and breathe.  No matter how big or small your closest nature may be, spending time sharing memories of past celebrations and hopes for new ones can plant the seeds for memorable celebrations in the future.

“When your cup is empty, you do not mourn what is gone. Because if you do, you will miss the opportunity to fill it up again.”  Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen 


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