Navigating the New Normal this Holiday Season

It just wasn’t the same.  

After the divorce, the house at the holidays felt like a ghost town because my daughter was with her father.  When she didn’t come home for Thanksgiving and instead, went to her boyfriend’s house, my heart felt like a dagger had gone through it.  And when the love of my life died from brain cancer, I could not imagine the pain of loss that I knew would overcome me that first December without him.  I wanted to stay under the sheets and not come out until the ball had fallen in Time Square.

My heart goes out to each of us who have been dealt the blow of change at those tender moments when that’s the last thing our hearts and souls need.

Are you dreading the holidays because it just can never be the same again?  There’s a way through it that, with some planning, creativity, courage, and compassion, can move you in unexpected ways. In a very endearing way, you can recapture glimpses of joy inside of the deep missing that happens in those milestone moments. 

Here’s what I discovered helps.

It makes a world of difference to acknowledge our emotions and not avoid or suppress them.  In the feeling of them, we can also invite those memories that filled our hearts with love and laughter.  So, yes, there will be moments of tears and sadness. But give equal time to the good feelings. Feel all of it.  Forget the brave face. Allow your feelings to find their way out. 

Give your inner child some airtime.  He or she will always know how to experience wonder and recapture the magic of the moments. Your inner child might be the perfect guide to get you connected to the here and now.  Close your eyes, breathe, see him or her looking at you and invite their input. See where they lead you. 

Start new traditions…out with the old and in with the new. I know this can seem like a tall order. So, don’t do it alone. Find others in your situation and use the collective capital that you all bring to reinvent.  Some ideas…

  • Holiday breakfast instead of dinner
  • Take in a holiday show
  • Put regrets in the fire (write it on a slip of paper)

Plan early…or perhaps don’t plan at all and allow the forces greater than you to be your guide. Whatever it takes to reduce your stress, do it.  So, if you need to get things on the calendar early (especially in the case of divorce/shared holidays with kids (younger or older)- have the plan set so there will be no resentments or arguments), or if you need to go with the flow in the day to day, connect to your heart, let your compassion light turn on and see what you need now. 

Notice your expectations because it’s unmet expectations that can really take a toll.  

Take the opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do that you couldn’t do before for whatever reason. 

Honor traditions and remember.  Remembering is part of healing and grieving too. Tell favorite stories, plant a flower in honor of a person or relationship, cook something that fills up your senses and brings you back to joy. 

Dutch apple pie is a favorite tradition of mine. So good…

Make gift giving more fun

  • Share a family heirloom
  • Give a future experience (trip to the zoo, play or concert, weekend away)
  • If you are going to actually shop, make it fun–enjoy the lights and music

Ask for help

Ask for other family members and close friends to be on hand for support if that is helpful. Help with dinner, having company, taking over when you need a break. 

Stress relief and exercise

Keep your body moving–take walks, stretch, go to yoga–whatever you like. It really helps with your emotional state.

Give to others

  • Volunteer
  • Find places doing “adopt a resident” programs
  • Buy gifts through an “angel tree” Salvation Army, YMCA, etc

Whatever your approach to navigating this new normal, start with feeling into your heart.  Lead with self love and compassion. Go easy on yourself…so many times we are very hard on ourselves and don’t even realize the impact.

And know that as you navigate the transition of the time, I am sending you much love. 

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