Coping with the holidays

 

It has been 12 years since Richard has passed away. That is 12 annual holidays without him. Twelve years of  pretending to be joyful for the sake of family and friends. After all, they don’t want a joy kill during the holidays. So cheer up! (Easier said then done.)

Some how I put on a mask of joy. I decorate the house, sign Christmas cards, and smile. I smile and smile and smile. I reach deep down inside to pull that smile out. Even when I just want to scream, “leave me alone!” while burring my head in the sand.

After my mom and dad passed away, I would volunteer to work the holidays. It was my way of avoiding them altogether. So working became my escape. Even if  I wasn’t schedule to work the holiday, I would use it as an excuse for not committing to the invitations. “Oh thanks but I may have to work” became my response. Because I used it as my reason to escape invitations, I would feel guilty and work. Working became my Plan B.

Plan B didn’t go so well. Instead of avoiding the holidays, I resented always working and not having the time off for myself. After all, why did I have to work just because I was now single? (Of course not realizing it was really my own choice to volunteer for the shift.) The only benefit to working the holidays was to help me to avoid the sympathy invite from people, which is worse then being alone or working!

I avoided the holidays because Richard wouldn’t be there anymore and that was to painful. He was my husband. Together we built our family and the holidays were for being together as a family. Without him, the holidays did not matter so much. Especially after my son graduated high school and became a young adult.

This year will be the 13th Thanksgiving, 13th Christmas and 13th New Years without Richard. I have moved back to the last place Richard and I lived together as a family with our son. (My son also moved back.) There is no pressure of sympathy invites or having to work the holidays. This year I am doing the holidays my way without any stress. I don’t have definite plans for the holidays and that is okay. I am free to just be.

How do you deal with the holidays? Do you fake it and put the mask on? Only to end up feeling resentful because you don’t want to be there, especially without your loved one? Do you avoid the holidays? Or are you the extrovert that keeps so busy you don’t have time to think about your loved one? Do you host the holidays and drown yourself in an endless to do list to avoid the sadness? What is your Plan B if it all gets to be to much?

However you spend the holidays, make time for self care. Look out for added stress and implement your Plan B. Remember, you are not alone. Together we walk side by side on this journey.

Ethel

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