The holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration with family and friends, but for a lot of people they are a very emotional time. It is a time of year that many find very difficult to get through—either because they have lost someone they loved, or because they are chronically ill. The season with social gatherings, gift giving, and traditions can trigger depression, loneliness, and grief, due to either missing a loved one… or missing the way things used to be.
For myself, although I have fibro life in balance (knock on wood), this will be the first year without my father. It’s been a hard year as it is, but the holidays are a trigger for memories. When loss is new the emptiness is sometimes too much. For my mother, who also has fibro, and any woman going through difficult emotions or fibro flares this is definitely a time for when self-advocacy is called for.
Here are several steps to take as the holidays approach:
- Recognize how you feel: As the holiday approaches stop to check in with yourself and if you are experiencing heavy emotions, don’t push past them but instead allow yourself to recognize them. This may help you to start processing the emotions.
- Plan ahead: if you are aware of your emotions, you can be gentle with yourself this season by looking ahead and making note of any triggers that may come up. Try to avoid situations or events that may be too uncomfortable for you. The hope is that by planning ahead you won’t find yourself in a circumstance where you are caught off guard by overwhelming feelings.
- Ask for help: Please know that if you are having a difficult time either because you lost someone special or because you are dealing with fibro challenges or something else, you do not have to pretend to be cheerful and try to do all the events or celebrations you used to by yourself. You should not be expected to. Determine what you need help with and let others know. It is okay to ask others to help, especially when you have had a tough time from either illness or grief, or both.
- Accept the help: Do you need someone to run errands or do some holiday shopping for you? Do you need help planning, organizing, or wrapping gifts– especially if you have young children or guests that will be arriving? Do you need help prepping or preparing a holiday meal? A lot of times, your family and friends want to do something for you but aren’t sure how you will feel about it. Just kindly ask them for help.
Focus on the Moment
If you are feeling off balance any time during the holiday or during social gatherings try to intentionally focus on the moment at hand. Look around and purposefully notice the things around the room, the lace design of the tablecloth, the light in the room, the décor on the table, the number of chairs, and on and on. If you direct your attention specifically it may help divert the negative feeling long enough for you to regain balance.
Don’t try to get through the tough holidays by yourself. Realizing when you may need help and making a plan to ask for that help is called self-advocacy. Often women will struggle with loss and pain alone rather than ask for help. Understand that you are worthy of having help. It is human to have tough times throughout life. Having others that care about you, help you through the holidays, can be a great comfort to you.
Hearts & Gentle Hugs,