I first shared this a few years ago when I really thought I should have reached a place in my grief journey where holidays weren’t as difficult as they were at first.
But what I realized then and what has been confirmed since is that every year has new and unique situations that make Christmas a fresh challenge each time.
This year is particularly difficult since our family will not be able to spend it together due to the pandemic. It makes an already melancholy season even more so.
As the seventh Christmas without Dominic rapidly approaches, I am pondering the question: “Why, oh why, is Christmas so hard?”
I think I’ve figured out at least a few reasons why.
For me, probably THE biggest reason Christmas is hard is because it throws off the routine I depend on to shepherd my heart through a day. It’s easiest for me to manage when I have at least a couple of hours of quiet time each morning. I need those silent moments to let my heart feel what it needs to feel, to cry if I must and to orient my thoughts after, once again, “remembering” that Dominic isn’t here.
For some of us, along with societal angst, fear, illness and loss (of income, dreams, opportunities), we are heavy laden with grief.
That makes everything harder when it’s most certainly already hard enough.
So while there may be fewer gatherings, parties, school activities and community events due to Covid19 you are probably already feeling some pressure to show up and be part of something, somewhere.
I want to take a minute to think about how important it is to make and maintain space for grief during this busy season.
You have to do it.
I know, I know-where to fit it in between all the other responsibilities!
If you don’t, though, the grief will out itself one way or another.
So may I offer the following practical suggestions for this upcoming holiday season?
Start each day (whenever possible) with a few minutes of alone time. Let those moments be the buffer between you and the day ahead. Don’t allow your mind to wander to your “to do” list. Sit. Sip the hot beverage of your choice and let silence soothe your soul.
Don’t overschedule your days (or nights!). Exercise the option of saying, “no” to things that are not really important or necessary. Just because you have done it every other year doesn’t obligate you to do it this year. Exhaustion always magnifies despair.
Try to balance busy days with not so busy days. The surest path to meltdown is traveling in the fast lane.
Let other people take on responsibilities-especially if they offer- and even if they don’t. Asking for help when you need it is a sign of maturity, not a sign of weakness.
Keep a pad and pen on your nightstand and jot down any random thoughts that you don’t want to forget before bedtime. There is no sense worrying about something you can’t address until morning and writing it down means you won’t forget it.
Make use of online everything. Have gifts sent directly to recipients. Order groceries for pick up. There are many ways to make life less hectic and more enjoyable. If you don’t know what’s available in your area, ask friends and family.
Plan for at least one recovery day for every large gathering/party/meal you have to attend. Some of us need two.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you are used to having matching everything, perfect centerpieces and gourmet meals it may be hard to lower your standards. But if there is one thing I have learned since Dominic ran ahead to heaven, it’s that the companionship of those we love trumps anything else. People rarely remember how you set your table but they will remember who sat around your table.
And if your heart is too tender to do anything but hold on and hope this month passes quickly, then do that. You don’t have to live up to anyone else’s expectations. Sometimes that’t the best we can do and that is OK.
I first shared this post three years ago when our family was in the midst of hard circumstances and we all had frayed nerves.
This year is a different kind of hard because some of the plans we thought were coming together are falling apart. I imagine many folks probably feel the same way with the pandemic forcing changes to longstanding traditions. So I’m sharing again.
You’d think that writing something down would ink it in my brain but I forget too. I need this reminder to take a breath, take a sip of my favorite flavored whatever and savor the beauty of this season.
Here they come round the bend like a pack of dogs chasing that rabbit on a racetrack.
No way to slow them down, no way to step to the side and ward off the relentless message that Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming soon-so, so soon.
Internet ads scream, “You’ve got to buy it NOW! You’re running out of time!”