unHappy Holidays!

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The Temptations Christmas album. Hershey’s kisses with the silver, green and red wrappings, fruit, mixed nuts, and peppermint candy canes. More baked goods than we could ever eat. Christmas movies. Music. An endless stream of family and friends. Laughter. Love. 

Around this time of year, I think of these memories often. Sometimes, they bring a smile to my face. Sometimes, the memories overwhelm me with sadness and longing. Longing for loved ones that are no longer here. Sadness over the loss of what felt like a magical time of year in a childhood that was otherwise difficult. The older I get, the more I realize that I’m not alone in the broad range of feelings I experience during the holiday season. A simple google search of “holiday sadness” will yield several million articles describing the sadness, depression, and/or anxiety that many others experience during the holidays.

From mourning the loss of loved ones to mourning the loss of another year when your goals may not have been achieved, there are many reasons why the end-of-year season may be difficult.

This is a very present struggle for me most years. And this year, I’m giving myself permission to explore the depth of my sadness. In doing so, I’m realizing that it’s ok for me to acknowledge that I feel a level of sadness as I think about my grandparents (who raised me), and others that have been important figures in my life that are no longer with us. It’s fine to feel sad because, well, I miss them. And wrapped up in that sadness is also an abundance of warm, happy memories that I have to dig beyond the sadness to get to. The warm happy memories are the ones that make me smile as I think about that one Christmas that my sister and I got our first bicycles. Or that first Christmas after we moved away from the majority of our family and the majority of our family traveled 18 hours, across 6 states to spend the Christmas holidays with us. That single Christmas was one of the happiest experiences of my childhood.

So here are three (3) things that I’m presently doing to shift into a good space during this holiday season…

1.    Allow myself to reflect. So often, our “solution” to thoughts that make us sad are to try to stuff them or avoid them altogether. However, I’m finding that giving myself the opportunity to fully “sit in it” and reflect on the memories of my loved ones, allows me to move beyond that dark space of being sad about them not being here anymore, and instead, move into a space of gratitude for the love and memories that they’ve left behind.

2.    Find opportunities to serve others. We say often, what you focus on becomes magnified. In this context, I realize that I can choose to grab hold of the joyous, loving memories, and honor the memory of my loved ones by spreading the love and joy that they gave to me.

3.    Establish new traditions and create new memories. I shared with Terence recently that I recognize the opportunity to create new traditions for our family unit. We haven’t done the best job of that so far. There are so many things we could do to ensure our children have their own rich childhood holiday memories.

If you’d like to read some ideas of Holiday Traditions to Consider, check out this article. We’re doing some of these this year!