As the holiday season is now in full swing, I can’t help but observe the swing of emotions—mine and that of those all around me.
On one hand, there is the child-like delight of magical holiday lights and decorations. Regardless of a “bah hum bug” mindset, it is hard to deny the spectacular beauty of homes and businesses bedecked with twinkling lights.
If you have little ones and family in your life, there is the excitement, enthusiasm and anticipation of the magical appearance of gifts and delectable feasts.
There is the fun of honoring friends and family with tokens of love and appreciation—and that of being honored; the gathering of relatives that may be few and far between.
On the other hand, there can be deep sadness—at least for those of us who have lived long enough to have lost or have been separated from beloved family and friends. Their absence during a time when their vibrant presence was depended upon, can be overwhelming. Every Christmas song can evoke a memory, which is like a punctuation mark on the loss.
And there is the emotion of families that have been pulled apart through divorce or separation. Watching the “other half” continue on with traditions while you are struggling alone seems infinitely more painful during the holidays. Or having to share the kids, or watch as new people become important to them and their memories.
So how do we move forward through the holidays full of so many mixed emotions?
- Reframe the holidays as "Holy-days" and try to reconnect with their true meaning. The Holy-days, regardless of religion, are about the honoring of Spirit—in whatever form you choose. Find a divine anchor upon which to hold fast. Whether it is reading spiritual books, meditating, walking labyrinths, or visualizing yourself curled up in the arms of God or wrapped in the wings of love, allow yourself to dive into a spiritual practice that brings you strength.
- Embrace the parts of the holidays that you love and do away with the parts that you don’t. If the pressure of gift giving, holiday cards or decorating weighs too heavily, don’t do it. Take responsibility for the choice not to participate in spending more time or money than you have rather than feeling defeated because you “never got around to it.” If doing “it” will make you feel better, more joyous, make the choice (and the time) to honor your old traditions.
- Become a merry memory for someone else. When you feel like wallowing in loneliness, reach out and help others. Volunteer at the homeless shelter. Serve food for those less fortunate. Bring cheer to an old folks home.
- Make new memories and traditions. Focus on gratitude. Count your blessings. Create new traditions. Honor your creativity. Sing, dance, play an instrument, draw, paint, sculpt. Some day, these will be “the good old days” that we miss.
- Advance rather than retreat. There is no shortage of love on this planet. Just because some of the people, or all of the people, of your past have died or moved on, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other people to love. Rather than closing your heart in fear, open your heart to give and receive. Reach out to those reaching out to you.
- Celebrate your loved and lost ancestors. Bake their favorite food, buy yourself what you know they would have given you. Create a new ritual that allows you to honor their special place in your heart and yourself at the same time. Remember, they want you to be happy.
- Get into nature. Go build a snowman or go to the beach. Sit my a river. Watch the light of the sun or the moon dance off the landscape. Nature is a great healer.
Depression is caused by dwelling in the past. Anxiety is caused by worrying about the future. Peace is accessed in the present moment.
Give yourself the present for the Holy-days.