Holiday Expectations and Realities

How are you feeling about the holidays this year? Excited? Apprehensive? Sad? Disappointed? A bit of each?

Back in March, when the world first entered Covid lock-down, most of us couldn’t imagine it continuing this long. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted our work, our schooling, our leisure time, our travel, and now our holidays. Thanksgiving looked much different this year, with many people alone or connecting through Zoom. The upcoming holidays will likely be some version of the same. We are needing to adjust our holiday expectations to fit the reality, which can lead to feelings of sadness, grief, and despair.

My family has a tradition of decorating the house for Christmas on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I admit to not feeling in the mood to decorate this year. Why decorate if no-one will be around to see it? My husband and son, though, wanted to keep the tradition alive. At first I felt resentful, but once I adjusted my perspective to see the act of decorating as self-care for my little family, I was able to get in the spirit. We made hot chocolate and trimmed the tree.

Covid isn’t the only reason we may be feeling down this time of year. The holidays are a time when our culture tells us we are supposed to celebrate, give thanks and be merry, and yet it is a time that can also be full of depression, sadness and grief. It’s a time that highlights the losses we’ve experienced both physical and emotional.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukkah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, or take part in the cultural festivities of this time of year, the holidays can be a complicated time. For those grieving the death of a loved one, facing illness, dealing with recent separation or divorce, struggling to find employment, or coping with depression or family crisis, this can be a very isolating time.

When we add Covid on top of the regular stressors of life, this holiday season may feel near to impossible to navigate. We need the space and time to acknowledge our sadness and, in some cases, adjust our expectations to meet the reality of our current situation.

There are many ways we can deal with sad feelings at the holidays. We can retreat from holiday activities. We can continue our holiday traditions with a new twist. We can establish new traditions that resonate with where we find ourselves at this point in our lives.

Three questions I find helpful to ask around the holidays are:

  1. What do I want to embrace this holiday season?
  2. What do I want to let go of this holiday season?
  3. What do I want to change this holiday season?

These questions are appropriate every year but, perhaps, more so during this holiday season.

Last year, I created a worksheet of “Tools for Navigating the Holidays.” If you are struggling this holiday season, you might find it helpful! Enter your e-mail here and I will send it to you.