Why Am I Not Feeling Festive This Year? Reasons and Solutions

Embracing the Festive Season: Your Guide to Overcoming Grief and Fostering Self-care During the Holidays

The world spins with festivity during the holidays; tunes fill the air, and the season echoes with joyful melodies. But where are you? Are you spinning, tuning, and echoing, or are you fighting an aching absence and a painful loss?

December arrives with decorated streets, yet many hearts carry the weight of grief and sorrow. I am surrounded by friends burdened with heaviness. Amidst the Christmas carols that fill the streets, they long for the holidays to pass, reminders of cherished moments now lost. Grief is hard, but grieving during the holidays is daunting. Coping can feel impossible and the idea of moving on can feel unimaginable. The question arises: 

How does one restore their heart after enduring so much pain? 

Joy to the World; Seemingly an Unfair World

They say time heals, but how do we heal when time feels suspended? How can we break free from the grip of sadness that engulfs every moment? When our mind refuses to function and our heart aches with every breath. And then those who care can only say: “take a deep breath”. Deep breaths. Those become a myth. A story told by those wishing to help and are helpless to do so. They will then say: “It will pass”, but what is to pass when darkness envelopes the hearts and minds of those who painfully grieve?  

Embracing Emotions

The unspoken truth? The holidays aren’t merry for everyone.

People smile, and you wonder how it is possible. People party, and you wonder how they can feel that free. People go shopping, and you wonder how worry and heartache does not consume them. How can people sing, dance, and celebrate when life can feel so unfair and unjust? You may feel that people around you don’t understand your pain or what you are going through, but remember, what you’re feeling is normal in times of grief.

Are you expected to be happy? To rejoice and to celebrate? Is it selfish to cry and grieve? Are you alone in this feeling of loss? Will the sadness ever end? Do we all experience grief in the same way? What if a certain food, tune, or smell reminds you of a lost loved one? If the holidays were once a way to forget present worries, how will pain ever allow you to enjoy the holidays? Is pain ever forgotten? If you’ve lost someone close, memories of them being at past holiday gatherings will come back strong. You’ll realize they won't be there again, and it will hurt a lot.

It is apparent that people deal with grief in different ways; through sadness, anger, numbness, or a struggle to concentrate, eat, or sleep. During times of grief, your mood might change a lot more than it did before. Understanding your emotional state might feel like a confusing journey, but it all starts with small steps. Know that the only thing predictable about this time is that it’s unpredictable; accept this unpredictability.

Yes, it is easier said than done, but I write to you in a room full of machines and beeping sounds that follow me into my sleep, making the nightmare and fear of loss as real in the daytime as in the night-time. So, I write for you and for me. I write so we can remember together and fight together—fight against the overwhelming feelings that make us feel like empty shells, desperate for good outcomes and fast resolutions. As I write for you, I remind myself to accept and apply what I’ve learned so far: if you don’t take care of yourself, things will spiral out of control faster. 

During the time of sadness and grief, the holidays are a reminder of the good days. However, since good days feel currently impossible, we can start by trying to achieve small good moments. 

Self-care Strategies for Holiday Grief

The holidays during grieving periods are not merely moments of celebration but a canvas where the past and present converge—a canvas painted with a myriad of emotions, where every smile carries a hint of longing and every memory is accompanied by an ache. It's within this delicate interplay that the true essence of the season reveals itself—a gentle reminder that amidst the revelry, there exists space for reflection, remembrance, and healing; there exists a space for you.

  • Allow Yourself to Feel: Sometimes, being strong means allowing yourself to fall so you can stand up stronger. Face the sadness, cry if you need to, and shout if it helps. Choose your coping mechanism; it's okay to feel sad, angry, or any other emotion that arises. Listen to your body, acknowledge your feelings and give yourself permission to experience them fully. When you are ready, try to focus on small tasks that help you feel normal again. 
  • Establish a Routine: While it might be challenging during unpredictable times, creating a basic sleep routine can help. Try to wake up and go to bed at consistent times that you can set and follow. This can provide a sense of stability amid emotional turmoil.
  • Stay Hydrated and Eat Nutritious Meals: In times of grief, basic self-care can often be overlooked. However, prioritizing your physical health can indirectly support your emotional well-being. Enjoying your favorite meals can help stimulate your appetite and maintain a well-balanced diet.
  • Engage in Light Exercise: You might not feel like attending your usual gym or class routine, but try going for a walk during the day or night, or try other gentle forms of exercise. These activities can help reduce stress and release endorphins, which can improve your mood.
  • Tidy Up a Space: Cleaning or organizing a small area, like your desk, a shelf, or a corner of a room, can provide a sense of accomplishment and order in your environment.
  • Set Achievable Goals: Make a short list of small, manageable tasks to accomplish each day. Crossing things off your list, no matter how small, can provide a sense of achievement.
  • Connect with Nature: Spending time outdoors, even if it's just sitting in a garden or taking a short walk in a park, can be soothing and grounding.
  • Practice Mindfulness or Meditation: As hard as this might seem, it is not impossible. Try taking a few minutes each day to focus on your breath or engage in mindfulness exercises can help calm your mind and reduce anxiety.
  • Read or Listen to Uplifting Content: Whether it's a book, podcast, or inspirational quotes, exposing yourself to positive and uplifting content can provide a temporary escape or offer moments of solace.
  • Engage in a Hobby or Creative Activity: Doing something you enjoy, whether it's painting, gardening, knitting, or playing music, can provide a distraction and a sense of purpose.
  • Reach Out to a Friend or Loved One: Sometimes you will feel like being alone, but don’t let this feeling drag on for too long. Sometimes company can help; whether you choose to sit in silence with someone you trust, or have a chat with someone you feel comfortable talking to. Simply having a conversation or spending time with someone supportive can ease feelings of isolation.
  • Set Realistic Expectations: Understand that this holiday season might not be the same as previous ones. It's okay if you don't feel like participating in every celebration or event. Give yourself the space to do what feels right for you.
  • Seek Support: Surround yourself with supportive friends, family, or a grief support group. Talking to others who understand what you're going through can provide immense comfort.
  • Express Your Feelings: Journaling, art, or other creative outlets can help you express your emotions. Sometimes, putting feelings into words or art can be a powerful way to cope.
  • Plan Ahead: Anticipate triggers or challenging moments during gatherings. Consider having an exit strategy if you need some alone time or if things become overwhelming; those around you will understand.
  • Professional Help: If you're struggling to cope, or if grief is significantly affecting your daily life, do not hesitate to seek support from a therapist or counselor. They can assist you in ways to navigate your emotions.

    "Darling, I know you suffer. That is why I am here for you."
    Thich Nhat Hahn

    Transforming Pain into Purpose

    As the holiday cheer permeates the air, there's a silent group among us, holding onto memories like fragile ornaments, trying to navigate the delicate balance between celebration and grief.

    Is there an achievable harmony between both—a dance for those coping with loss, finding the strength to smile amidst their pain? Are you thinking “do I dare celebrate?” or “how can I celebrate through this pain?”

    The holidays aren't always cheerful gatherings and merriment. For many, they signify a poignant intersection where the past collides with the present, and where cherished memories entwine with the palpable ache of absence. It's a tender dance performed in the hearts of those who carry the weight of loss.

    So how do we learn that dance?

    • Reflect on Your Values: Consider what matters most to you and how you can honour your loved one's memory by aligning your actions with those values. This reflection can guide you towards finding a purpose that feels meaningful.

    • Channel Emotions Creatively: Use your emotions as a source of inspiration for a creative outlet. Whether through writing, painting, music, or any form of art, allow it to serve as a means to express your feelings and experiences.

    • Give Back or Volunteer: Dedicate time to a cause that was important to your loved one or one that resonates with you. Volunteering can provide a sense of purpose and fulfilment by helping others in need.

    • Create a Legacy Project: Start a project in memory of your loved one. It could be a scholarship fund, a community initiative, a memorial garden, or anything that carries forward their legacy while positively impacting others.

    • Share Your Story: Consider sharing your journey through grief and your coping strategies with those who might be going through similar experiences. Your story could offer comfort, support, and inspiration to others.

    • Connect with Support Groups or Communities: Engage with communities or support groups that focus on grief and turning pain into purpose. Being part of a supportive community can provide encouragement and innovative ideas.
    • Practice Self-Compassion: Understand that transforming pain into purpose is a gradual process. Be patient and compassionate with yourself as you navigate this journey.

    • Set Goals or Intentions: Define specific goals or intentions related to transforming your grief into purpose. This could involve setting milestones for a project, committing to a certain amount of volunteer hours, or anything that feels achievable and meaningful to you.
    • Create New Traditions: During the holiday season, coping with loss can be especially difficult. Striking a balance between honouring the past and embracing the present is crucial. Consider establishing new traditions that resonate with your current circumstances. This may include deviating from seasonal customs or exploring fresh and new practices that hold meaning for you, while honouring the memory of your loved ones.

     Remember, finding purpose in grief is a deeply personal journey. There's no right or wrong way to navigate it. Take your time, and remember to always be gentle with yourself.

    Allow yourself the space to explore what feels most meaningful to you.

    Transcend—Don’t Regress

    During the holiday season, the world transforms into a spectacle of joy and celebration. Streets dazzle with colourful lights, familiar melodies fill the air, and an unmistakable air of festivity surrounds us. Yet, within this vibrant tapestry of merriment, there exists an unspoken truth—a silent narrative that often goes unnoticed amidst the joy.

    How can we transform our narrative into one of growth instead of bitterness and hardship?

    • Hold on to fond memories; don’t fight or suppress them.
    • Cherish beautiful remembrances, especially those that make you smile.
    • Acknowledge that amidst the cheer, it is ok to request a quieter, more contemplative space—a space that holds the essence of those we've loved and lost.
    • Allow the spirits of those we’ve lost to linger in the tender moments of reflection. It is ok to keep their memory alive. Think of them, but let their memory propel you forward rather than hold you back. If it helps, ask yourself: wouldn’t they want me to be happy?
    • Use your narrative to face the pain and emerge on the other side of grief, ready to remember fondly.

    Loss and grief are never easy, and the process is always far from smooth. The best advice can feel frustrating, and the path to recovery can feel challenging. Yet, it is important to hold onto the belief that even the darkest tunnel eventually reaches its end. Grief, unlike many things, arrives like a towering mountain, casting a dark shadow over everything. However, with time, it gradually lessens; its weight easing at each turn. With this, allow me to remind you: do not be consumed by helplessness, and do not succumb to hopelessness. The horizon stretches far, and the sun will unfailingly rise again. Allow me to dare and say what others have said before; but allow me to say it with conviction:

    Breathe; this too shall pass... 

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