- Allow yourself to mourn: The holidays can be especially rough if they remind you of loved ones who have passed away. I admit that I fall into this category as my father died right after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. When this happens (and more people die during the holiday season than any other time) it can make the holidays pretty melancholy. Christmas just doesn't feel the same. In fact, it can get downright lonely. Many people try to shove those feelings aside or bury them under a load of presents or plenty of eggnog. But I suggest that you embrace your mourning instead. Give yourself permission to think about whomever you have lost. In fact, pull out their pictures, write them a letter, and remember them. What better way to honor their memory? In the process, you also are handling your own emotions in a much healthier way and getting them out (at appropriate times and places) might free you up emotionally to enjoy the holidays more. You can also mourn things besides people. You can mourn what WAS. In other words, it's okay to think about and mourn they way things used to be, if those are fond memories for you. It's not a bad thing to get sentimental about the past...as long as you don't stay there. You can also mourn the way things currently are. Maybe life is not the way you planned for it to be or even the way you WANT it to be. You can grieve that...without getting stuck there. The point is that it is better to face your emotions than avoid them. Get them out in healthy ways so you can...
- Focus on what is good: I absolutely believe you should embrace your sadness or grieve your losses. However, it is not beneficial or even accurate to only focus on those things. You must choose to also take account of the blessings in your life. Things may not be exactly they way you want. Maybe you have lost someone very important to you. But don't forget about the good things in your life. Children, grandchildren, good friends, a home, a job, food on the table.....if you choose to, the list would probably be longer than you think. If you struggle through the holiday season, maybe it would be a great idea to sit down and make a list of the positive aspects in your life. Don't stubbornly hold on to your negativity so much that you can't adjust your perspective and see the beauty in your life.
- Do your part to make things better: Don't check out of life. Don't be the person who complains about everything but never makes an effort to improve things. Every situation is different but do your part to make the holidays better than they currently are. Maybe that means you need to forgive someone who has wounded you. Maybe you need to reconcile with that relative that you haven't spoken to in years. Maybe it just means that you proactively reach out to start new traditions or just bring an element of joy that is currently missing. Perhaps things are not as good as they once were but you can make a difference in that if you want to. The "way things were" were that way because people made them that way. You have the same opportunity and I would encourage you to be that person who makes a difference now.
Aaron Welch is a licensed mental health counselor and nationally certified counselor who specializes in issues of masculinity, parenting and relationships. He strives to fight for the hearts of his clients and empower them to build a legacy that impacts the world. He is part of a team of experts at “The Lifeworks Group, Inc”. For more information about Aaron or Lifeworks, please visit www.lifeworksgroup.org or call us at 407-647-7005.
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