Do you have that feeling of dread because you don’t know how you are going to handle the holidays?
It’s that feeling of complete immobilization like a deer in the head lights just staring at the car that is headed right for him but he isn’t able to move. Except in your case, the car heading directly toward you is the holidays and all the expectations and obligations that go with it. You are just standing there staring at it coming full speed ahead, and you can’t move. You don’t know what to do.
It’s not that you don’t love all the traditions and festivities of the season, it’s just that this year may have been a hard one for you and you just aren’t up to facing all that you know you will have to deal with during this time of year.
I hate to tell you, whether you like it or not, the holidays are coming. It’s like the ominous saying in Game of Thrones… “Winter is coming!”
I wanted to write this post because I know how you feel. I have been there. I have lived through several holiday seasons that followed heartbreaking, trying years. I know what it is like to be frozen in fear of the holiday season and feel like you want to escape it but there is nowhere to go… it is happening all around you, and there is nothing you can do about it.
Well, there is something you can do about it. You can’t control everything going on around you, but you can control your response to it. I want to offer you some hope and some suggestions for how to handle the holidays after a hard year.
There has already been a lot written about how to handle the holidays after losing someone. The loss of a loved one is excruciating on any day of the year but especially on special days that hold powerful memories of your loved one, making their loss so much more unbearable. No time is harder than Thanksgiving and Christmas. If that is your situation, let me tell you… I know how you are feeling and I am so sorry. I can tell you, it will get better and you will someday find joy and hope again and your enjoyment of the holidays will return. In the meantime, I hope this post will encourage you and help you get through it.
In this post, however, I want to include those of you who are recovering from other kinds of losses as well. Like…
- The loss of a job or business.
- The loss of a home.
- The loss of a marriage.
- The loss of physical or mental health.
- The loss of a relationship due to a conflict or misunderstanding.
- The loss of a community due to a move.
- The loss of a dream you were hoping and praying for.
There are so many kinds of losses that we all experience at different times in our lives. They pull the rug out from underneath us, and it takes awhile for us to recover. These hard times are draining enough in and of themselves, but when you add on top of it all that the holiday seasons brings, it can be just too much to handle. Honestly, I have always thought the holidays are overwhelming even in the best of times, but if you are in a bad place or recovering from a hard year, it can be unbearable.
7 suggestions for how to handle the holidays after a hard year
- Change things up. Do things differently this year and chart a whole different course for this Christmas. Take the year off of all the decorating, shopping, cooking and attending all the events and parties. Or just choose a few of these things. Put a wreath on your door and a centerpiece on your table and call it done. Explore other ideas. Perhaps go to visit a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. Or go stay somewhere beautiful like the beach or the mountains.
- Give yourself grace. If you don’t feel able to keep up the fast pace of everyone else…its ok. Don’t feel bad about being less than joyful. Give yourself permission to cry. Crying is actually very cleansing and healing. Be open and honest with friends and family about how you are feeling and what you can and can’t do. Ask for help.
- Cut back. Create a “Not to Do” List. Make a list of all the things about the holiday season you get overwhelmed with and don’t like doing. Put these things on this list. Choose only the most important things that you don’t mind doing and especially the things you find joy in doing for your “To Do” List.
- Serve others. There are so many people worse off in the world who need our help. There is no better way to forget our woes than by putting aside our own problems to help others. “If you really want to receive joy and happiness, then serve others with all your heart. Lift their burden, and your own burden will be lighter.” (Ezra Taft Benson)
- Count your blessings. Start a list of things you have to be thankful for. Add to it every time you get that stab of pain from seeing a social media post or receiving a Christmas card or letter that makes you feel like everyone else’s life is perfect…what happened to mine? Force yourself to find things that you are thankful for and keep adding them to your list. I’m sure you will be surprised by how many blessings you truly have.
- Take care of yourself. Grieving is hard work. It takes a toll on your physical and mental health. This makes it all the more important to take care of yourself. Eat healthy whole foods. Cut back on sugar and alcohol. Go for walks to get exercise, fresh air and vitamin D from the sun. Get plenty of rest. Find ways to pamper yourself. Diffuse essential oils or my personal favorite… wear them. You may want to read this post about how wearing Joy helps me get through hard days.
- Draw near to God. During hard times it is easy to feel abandoned by God but that is opposite of the truth. He is always there for you. God knows your situation. He feels your pain and he wants to walk with you through your pain. Keep bible verses handy to remind you of His promises and to give you strength.
A Personal Story
One Thanksgiving weekend, I flew out to help my brother who was going through a tough time. He was broadsided by a divorce that left him without a home and only garbage bags full of his clothes…nothing else. Living in a hotel with 3 of his kids until he could find and set up a new place, he was emotionally depleted and in complete disbelief about what hit him.
At the same time my dad was dying from cancer, and my daughter was in an eating disorder treatment facility. It was only a little over a year before this that we lost our son to suicide. The hits just kept coming. It felt like our whole family was falling apart. It was all so overwhelming and especially hard to be going through all of this when the world around us was gleeful with holiday joy and thanksgiving.
We had so much to do in a very short time to get my brother on his feet by finding an apartment and buying all he needed to furnish and stock a kitchen so he could start cooking again. Life in a hotel room and eating out all your meals with 3 kids was no way to live. We did all this shopping amidst all the holiday shoppers looking for gifts for their loved ones which added to the sting.
Yet when it came to Thanksgiving Day, he said we were taking the day off, and we were going to feed the homeless. I was so surprised and thought to myself… aren’t you homeless right now? Well, it was the best thing we could have done. It lifted all of our spirits getting outside of our own problems by serving others. After we were done, we went to Cracker Barrel and ate pancakes.
Talk about changing things up a bit. I still look back fondly on those Thanksgiving memories in spite of all the hard times we were going through.
It ended up that my father passed away shortly before Christmas. Our once bustling family now felt so small. We were missing our son, my father, my brother’s kids and several other family members who moved away that year. It felt so lonely and depressing. However, we cherished those we did have with us, we figured out new ways to celebrate that year, and we counted the blessings we did have. We got through it.
It’s been six years since that holiday season, and with the Lord, we have all healed, and our family has grown. There have been so many amazing miracles and blessings that have transpired over the years. Things eventually got better, and now everyone is doing so well. Our joy for life and our hope for the future has been restored. We are truly grateful.
I share this with you to say that no matter how hopeless you feel right now with what you are going through. There is hope. Things will get better. Eventually, you will be able to once again enjoy the holiday season.
I hope this post gives you some hope and practical solutions for facing the holidays this year.
Wishing you all the best,
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