So many are thrilled for the upcoming holiday season, but so many are not. For those not thrilled at all, the holiday rush is a source of stress, a time of remembering and grieving those you’ve lost, facing the mortality of those you’re close to that will not be around for many more holidays, or a time you dread because your family is not the most enjoyable to spend time with.
It is not just the upcoming holiday season. Veterans Day is almost here. I have a friend who is a newlywed. She just had to say goodbye to her husband at 3:00 AM at the airport the morning he left for deployment. She will not be able to see him until sometime next year. It's rough all around for people that are no longer with us, or we are not able to be with, no matter what day or time of year.
What can you do to help yourself get through this season of reminders that your loved ones are not with you? These are suggestions I have given in the past, and they all can be tailored to something that may work better for you. The purpose of counseling is to help you find answers that are right for you; so please feel free to embellish on, or discount, any of these ideas to make them fit you.
Acknowledge and allow your feelings. The first step is to give yourself permission to feel. There also is no right or wrong way to feel. If someone is no longer with you, you are not able to be with loved ones, or you are alone; you have a right to your feelings. I have never told one of my clients to, “put on your big girl/boy pants on and smile”. If you are sad, you are allowed. If you need to cry, allow yourself to.
Create new traditions. Before my “snowbird” parents started to come down to Florida, I spent many a holiday at different friend’s homes, or homes of their families. I knew my parents would be here for Christmas; but I referred to myself as the, “Thanksgiving orphan”. One year, some of my closest friends had moved away, and another friend had to work. I decided to make food that was the exact opposite of Thanksgiving turkey. I made lasagna, and bought a blackberry cobbler—so good! Later, my friend that had to work came over, and we watched a Halloween-themed movie. I did what I thought would lend to me feeling my best spending the day alone. You also could involve yourself in holiday events the St. Petersburg area has to offer. You could choose to attend social events, or volunteer any time of the year--and possibly end up feeling more a part of your community. Try different things.
Reach out. I know someone locally that invites people to his house every year for the holidays. A lot of us are transplants in Florida, and are not able to spend every holiday with our loved ones. If nobody you know does this, and you feel like celebrating with others, maybe you could try hosting something. Maybe each person could bring a dish. Maybe you love doing it all because you came from a huge family. Maybe continuing to carry on the traditions you’ve enjoyed, and being there for others that feel alone too, will be what works.
Take care of you. You may have heard of RICE when you injure yourself. Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. Now might be a good time to find time to rest, and ways to cool off if you’re having family conflict, (de)compress to feel calm, and do things to elevate your mood. You could simply take time for a nap. You can make sure you stay consistent with healthy habits, or take on a new one. Choose anything that is good for your mind, body, or spirit. An example I’ve always remembered was a friend that went to a place that was special to her on her birthday. She drove an hour and a half to a place she loved, contemplated how her past year was, and what she wanted the next one to look like. She expressed gratefulness for just being alive. She did not need a big party, or anyone to acknowledge the day, besides herself. That is one of the greatest lessons I have learned, and put to practice in my own way.
If you need more, seek out professional help. If you are at a loss of where to start, or if you have tried everything you think you could, are continuing to feel sad or hopeless, anxious or stressed, or are feeling affected physically, please do not hesitate to reach out.
1. Allow yourself to feel.
2. Create new traditions.
3. Reach out.
4. Take care of you.
5. Seek out help.