When Holidays Hurt: 3 Keys to Survival

Author: Gary Roe

Ah, the holidays.

Halls, houses, and lawns are decked with festive decorations. Kitchens are filled with delightful, savory aromas. The air is laced with laughter, familiar music, and the tinkling of Salvation Army bells.

The holiday spirit is everywhere.

But underneath the bright lights, smiles, and cheerful greetings lurks the unseen warehouse of holiday expectations. We have to top last year and the year before that. Bigger, better, more colorful, and more delicious. We must somehow make this holiday more “wow,” better than ever before, the best ever.

We all have expectations. We have ideas of how this should go, what should happen, and when. We have expectations of others. Others have expectations of us. We have expectations of ourselves based on what we think others’ expectations are.

Even our culture has expectations. Have the appropriate holiday spirit. Engage in holiday cheer. Fa-la-la-la-la, and all that. Be happy, happy, happy! And above all, buy, buy, buy.

The pressure mounts.

Broken gingerbread cookie

What if we’re not happy?

What if we’re not happy? What if we’re actually sad? What if we’ve lost a loved one, or several? What if we’re depressed?

Amidst the smiling faces, there are some wounded hearts. Holidays are naturally times for reminiscing. Memories of what we once had swim before our eyes. We become hyper-aware of who and what we’ve lost.

Grief is a lonely thing. Surrounded by gaiety, a broken heart can feel more alone and isolated than ever. No one wants to hurt for the holidays, but some of us do.

Hurting for the Holidays?

How do we deal with this?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Manage those expectations.

One question to ask ourselves might be, “Exactly whose game are we playing here?” Instead of plowing ahead, as usual, let’s pause and take a good look at our expectations and plans. What do we want this holiday to be like? What’s honestly possible and realistic? What do we really want to do, how, when, and with whom?

Focus on a few things. What’s most important? What must happen? Along the way, it might be good to let those close to you know you’re doing things differently this year. This will help manage their expectations too.

2. Make a plan to remember loved ones who’ve passed on.

Acknowledge the elephant in the room. Bring up their name and talk about them. Invite others to share a special memory or what they miss most. Holidays are a wonderful time to honor the special people who now reside in our hearts rather than next to us.

3. Be kind to yourself.

You can do more than merely survive. Take your heart and health seriously. Pace yourself. Rest. If you love yourself well through this time, that love will spill over onto family and friends as well.

Watch those expectations. Focus on the most important things. Simplify. Honor deceased loved ones. Be kind to yourself along the way.

These holidays might be tough and stressful, but they can still be good.

This article has been republished from garyroe.com.

From the pen of...
Gary Roe is an author and grief specialist with six books and over 500 articles in print. A former missionary and pastor, he now serves as a hospice chaplain and grief counselor for Hospice Brazos Valley in central Texas. Read more of Gary's writings at garyroe.com.