by Gary Roe
The holidays are here. It's a season of joy and celebration. It can also be a little crazy.
Black Friday has invaded Thanksgiving. The frantic hunt for perfect deals is underway. Holiday shopping has become a contact sport.
You can feel the tension amid bright lights and the tinkling bells. We're impatient, hurried, even frantic. As the traffic increases, so does our blood pressure.
Holidays are also stressful for another reason. They surface our losses like nothing else can. We're keenly aware of who's missing.
We have loved ones who can't be with us this year. Some have died. Others are still here but no longer remember. Some are chronically ill. Some are alone in ways they've never have been before.
As a hospice chaplain and grief counselor, I see a lot of holiday grief. Many are hurting and wondering how they are going to navigate this time emotionally. If that's you, here are three tips to help you stay sane this holiday season.
1. Believe that this holiday can be good, even amid the pain.
When someone you love departs, they leave a hole in your heart. Life will forever be different. Your world has changed. Holidays will never be the same.
You could hunker down, isolate, and wait for this season to pass. You might choose to stuff your emotions, plaster a smile on your face, and go through the motions. Neither of these options takes your heart seriously.
You matter. Your losses count. You can make this season work for you, even if you're hurting. Rather than letting these holidays use you, you can use them to heal and grow.
These holidays will be different, but they can still be good. You can make them so. Believe it.
2. Identify and manage your holiday expectations.
Unmet expectations are at the root of most disappointments in life. Many expectations are hidden. They slink under the surface and silently dominate our hearts. When it comes to holidays, unspoken expectations can be killers.
We have expectations of others - what they will and won't do, how, and when.
We have expectations of how things will go - who, what, when, and where.
We have expectations of ourselves - how we should feel, how much we should do, our ability to please others, etc.
Hidden expectations set us up for frustration, confusion, and a whole lot of physical and emotional stress. The sheer weight of them can be crushing.
What are your holiday expectations? What do you expect of others, yourself, and the holidays? Write them down. Be specific.
Now, evaluate them. Are these expectations reasonable and realistic? If you had to pare this list down to just one or two, which ones would you choose?
Stay sane. Identify and manage those unruly expectations.
3. Make a sane and simple plan.
When it comes to the holidays, having a plan for emotional, physical, and spiritual health is non-negotiable.
Now that you've identified your expectations and hopefully pared them down, you can decide how to fulfill them.
You get to choose what to do, how, when, and with whom. As you decide, make sure you're being kind to yourself. If you choose what's good for you, chances are it's also loving to those around you.
If what you decide doesn't fit with someone else's expectations about what you should be doing, that's okay. People's reactions are more about them than about you. Pleasing everyone is impossible. Some people won't be pleased no matter what.
If you've lost a loved one, find ways to honor them. Continue a holiday tradition that reminds you of them. Set up an empty chair in their memory. Give a charitable gift in their name. Write them a letter. Have a special time of remembrance and sharing at a family gathering. Be creative. Do what fits you and your relationship with them.
Be proactive. Don't let the holidays use you. Use them for your benefit and for the good of those around you. Believe that these holidays can still be good. Identify and manage those sneaky, swirling expectations. Make a sane and simple plan about what to do, how, when, and with whom.
These holidays will be different, but they can still be good.
Gary Roe is an Award-winning author, speaker, and grief specialist. He is also a compassionate and trusted voice in grief-recovery who has been bringing comfort, hope, encouragement, and healing to hurting, wounded hearts for more than 30 years. Grab his free eBook, I Miss You: A Holiday Survival Kit, or download a free excerpt of Surviving the Holidays Without You. For more information, visit www.garyroe.com Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.