’Tis the season to be jolly ...,” but not for everyone. Although the holidays are a time for family gatherings, excitement and fun, many folks find this time of the year depressing and overwhelming. In some families, people have lost jobs or homes, couples have separated, a daughter or son is serving in Iraq, grandpa was diagnosed with end stage cancer or a relative recently died.
Carols fill the air, but for many the world is filled with worry, sadness, anxiety, fear and hopelessness. Some people don’t want to go out or be seen. They barely have the energy to get through the day. For some folks, all they want for Christmas is for January to quickly follow October.
Whenever we experience unexpected changes and significant losses, we may find ourselves feeling lost, empty or in despair. We often want to shut out the world filled with joy and laughter. We get angry and depressed. The last thing we want to hear is “Happy Holidays.”
Even those who have not experienced loss can be overwhelmed by this season of decorating, gift buying, card writing, cookie baking, special events ... the list goes on. We often feel as though we have to “do it all” to make the holidays special. Would Christmas still be Christmas if you didn’t bake cookies? Can you allow yourself to not decorate this year? Can you find a way to celebrate and still make this time special for you and your loved ones? Maybe even new, more meaningful traditions will arise.
Sometimes we are so caught up in all the plans and preparations of the season that we forget our own needs and the needs of others. Stop and take a breath. Be aware of how you are feeling. It is important to remember that what you are feeling is OK. It is OK not to be filled with joy. Honor your grief. Do what you can. This is the time for extra attention to your needs. Take care of you.
This can be a time to be quiet and reflective. Think about what might bring you comfort during the holidays. Light a candle of hope, remembrance or peace to shine light into the darkness. Share stories and memories. Comfort also can be found in quiet solitude.
Be kind and gentle to yourself and to others. Take time to reflect, to listen, to visit. Remember those who may be struggling through the holidays. Is your neighbor alone? Did a co-worker get laid off? Can you reach out to others?
In this the season of giving, give yourself the gift of self care. Take time to rest. Ask for help if needed. Reach out to one another. Share tidings of comfort and joy. In the midst of your sorrow and sadness, you may even experience joy. Remember, you are not alone and you are loved. May you experience peace and healing, even find hope.
Evelyn Wald is a licenses professional counselor specializing in grief and loss with the Individual and Family CHOICES. This weekly column is a collaboration of Centre County Communities That Care serving Bald Eagle, Bellefonte, Penns Valley and Philipsburg-Osceola area school districts and Care Partnership: Centre Region Communities that Care serving the State College Area School District.