Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Survival Guide

Like everyone else these days, I find my 'to-do' list growing to include extra shopping, holiday decorating and baking, sending holiday greetings, on top of preparing the house for visitors and holiday meals. In this ongoing rush of hurry-up-and preparations, finding time to savor the fleeting joy of the season can be difficult. It's hard not to feel extra pressure to make a great holiday, thinking back to where we were a year ago, when Excy ended up in the doctors offices on his BD the 22nd and having ER surgery Christmas Eve. It felt extra hard last year, zooming from the hospital and back, taking care of the house and animals while worrying about Excy and fretting about his 89-yr-old dad visiting from out of town. Being in the hospital can be alienating in itself. I know, having spent several holidays in hospitals out of state.

And that makes me think of the special difficulties friends and loved ones are going through this season, struggling with their own surgeries and illnesses; in particular the loss of loved ones. This year my SIL is having her second surgery in as many months, yet insists on hosting Christmas day at their house as usual, determined that the kid's will find comfort in the routine. It's too much pressure. I know. I constantly put those kinds of pressures on myself (see above). I'm not sure why we're so hard on ourselves.

For those of you struggling with physically and emotionally painful situations right now, please allow yourself the time and space to get through the holidays on your own terms. It's a well known fact that time heals - and when you don't have time to heal and the world marches on with holidays, try to find ways to be kind to yourself by having plans and back-up plans.

Don't feel you have to do the same old things because of 'family tradition' or the guilt of 'spoiling' everyone's holiday -- in a crisis, you need to do what's best for you in the situation. Christmas and New Year's Eve comes around every year. If you don't feel like celebrating this year or you can't, give yourself permission not to.

Your true friends and family will understand. Even if you don't feel like canceling altogether, maybe you can do something different that takes some of the pressure off -- go out to dinner, or see a holiday movie together instead of staging a big dinner. Some people see the holiday ritual as a way to survive tough times, others need some time to grieve and not 'be normal.' There's no right or wrong way to act -- and no one can tell you what you should or shouldn't do.

Be gentle with yourself and don't do more than you want to or can take on. Don't keep emotions bottled up. Your family and friends aren't mind-readers. You need to communicate your feelings, without apology. You may be surprised at their response and find yourself having eye-opening conversations. Most people don't openly discuss their feelings for fear of hurting others, and you may be pleasantly surprised by their response.

And give yourself permission to change your mind. If you committed to something, and at the last minute you feel you can't go through with it, don't. It's not going to be the end of the world.

The holidays can be the toughest times in the world for people going through pain. Remember: grief is a rite of passage. Only you can find an authentic way to navigate stormy weather.


Arkansas Patti said...

Absolutely wonderful advice. Sometimes the holidays can be times of stress even in the best of circumstances. When the plate gets full with grief or illness, it doesn't hurt to be flexible and break with tradition.
Great post.

Chris said...

Thanks, I needed to hear that right now. You may be a little charitable to about how friends and family respond to changes, but that doesn't change just because it's Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps your SIL could make it easier on herself by accepting help from others??

Doris Sturm said...

Good advice! Have yourself a merry, little Christmas and keep it simple!

wendy said...

I think you wrote that for me.....and you didn't even know it.
but you did.
thank you

sallylwess said...

Very good advice! I think it works every year, but if the year has been especially tough, I think it is necessary advice.

ReformingGeek said...

I do feel more stressed this year. Thanks for sharing this!

lakeviewer said...

So sweet of you to leave a comment on my "closed" memoir blog. Thanks for the visit. Since we have some mutual friends, I know I want to be back and chat around with you too.