Weathering the holidays in low times
Sometimes our lives don’t pan out quite like we had hoped. The holidays can make this reality more evident and many times more painful.
Maybe we are alone because we work at a local ski resort and family is far away. Maybe you are recently divorced, have lost a job or are undergoing treatment for an illness. Maybe you have lost a loved one this past year. It can be hard to look forward to the holidays with joy when there is so much pain or loss or fear of the unknown. Previous traditions are broken and what once was is changed and will never to be the same. Our memories can carry such warmth and happiness around past holidays, and these recollections can trigger even greater sorrow and grief.
I remember the first Christmas after my son had passed away. I asked, “God, how am I supposed to find joy and continue to provide good memories for my family when it feels as if life should have never gone on without him? How can I open gifts when I won’t get to wake him to open gifts with his brothers, when I won’t get to hear him laugh on Christmas morning?” It was a very real question with no specific answer.
Such grief is absolutely real, but we need to remember that grief is a process. Psychology and science have shown that when we acknowledge and work through pain, we can relieve it. When we ignore our pain or try to go around it, it will not resolve and may, in fact, grow in intensity.
I learned a process I came to call “putting on my Grief Hat,” and that included speaking my grief out loud, allowing myself to be sad and disappointed, and I would have a good cry. Often it would be a good, long cry. But then it would subside and I would consciously take off my Grief Hat. Taking off the Grief Hat is also a key part of the grieving and loneliness process, but we need to start by acknowledging our pain and our fear of not knowing what’s next.
Grieve. And then go and live. Get out an old favorite Christmas movie. Plan an event with friends. Make steps forward in your life, and start rebuilding your own dreams, your vision of what you want your life to be. Your journey may require a layover, but it does not stop.
To quote lyrics from the Garth Brooks’ song, “The River,” “I will sail my vessel till the river runs dry, like a bird upon the wind these waters are my sky, I’ll never reach my destination, if I never try, so I will sail my vessel till the river runs dry.”
This is life for everyone. You are not alone. Reach out.
May you have blessed holidays, and may all your dreams come true.
Dolores Snell, PA-C, is the physician assistant who teams with Dr. Susan Inscore at Glenwood Medical Associates. She is a registered cardiovascular invasive specialist, with a background in interventional cardiology and electrophysiology. She is also a registered cardiac sonographer with extensive experience in adult, pediatric and neonatal echocardiography. Mental health issues are a special avocation for her.
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