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Hard time at holiday time? You’re not alone.

sad SantaFall is definitely here, and with it the beginning of the holiday season.  Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and next comes Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s.  For some of us, this is a time of gratitude, joy and happy anticipation, and that’s wonderful.

But for some, the holiday season is very difficult.  It may be just this year, as a person or a family has experienced a loss and is grieving that loved one’s absence.  It may be that a family has broken up through divorce or separation, and is wondering how to make the holidays feel “right” again.  Or a couple may be having a hard time in their marriage, and not know how to get through the added pressures that come with feeling like “I should be happy”.

How to cope?  The main idea would be to admit to yourself that you are going through a hard time.  Don’t try to force feelings that aren’t really there.  If there are parts of the holiday season that you can take comfort in, that is great.  If there are parts this year that cause you pain, maybe they can be skipped.  For parents dealing with children, figure out what they need to feel whole and safe, and try to provide that, but don’t expect that your heart is going to feel complete if you are going through heavy stress or a loss.

It’s important to practice self-care at any time you’re going through stress, but most especially at this time of year.  Try to take breaks to just breathe, time to cry if you need to, and seek out people around you who feel supportive and understanding.  Keep the activities to a manageable level, and try to find the parts you can enjoy in each one that you do.  If your family is undergoing big change, whether through loss or divorce, it may be comforting to try starting a new ritual or two.

The main idea?  Don’t tell yourself how you think you “should” feel.  Instead, accept how you do feel, and move gently through this time of year, allowing it to help you where it can, and allowing the parts that don’t help to flow past you.  Time doesn’t fix everything, but with time you will adjust to your circumstances and eventually be able to find joy again.  Hang onto that.

And please, if it feels like you can’t cope alone, please consider some counseling.  Learning some new tools, getting some validation, learning how to release pain … all of that can really help.

Please share this if you have a friend in need.

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