I was asked to offer thoughts about the pain of the holidays. For many people, the holiday season is hard. Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one, and you’re missing him or her terribly. Perhaps you’ve experienced a break up or divorce, or maybe even a new marriage or baby (some type of family shift). Maybe this has been your first year adulting, and what a crazy year it’s been! Adjustment comes with its own challenges; events like holidays, birthdays, etc. can make them harder. No doubt, this year has been filled with difficulties. Furthermore, for many of us, approaching the end of the year feels much like an adrenaline drop – literally and figuratively. We are missing our people and our familiar way of life. We are tired. We are sad. We are lonely. We are angry. We might even feel guilty because we’re not really feeling the holiday spirit. What we really want to say is “Bah, Humbug!” and few other choice words.

And those mixtures of feelings and emotions may leave us questioning: What do I do now? How will I survive this season when I feel so sad and uncertain? Does anybody even care? Well, let me tell you that:

1) What you are feeling is understandable. This year and everything we’ve experienced within it have been traumatic (e.g., COVID and its implications, crazy politics, emboldened racism and injustice, unemployment, other sicknesses, deaths…). These things are sure to take their toll. Please don’t feel bad about feeling bad. You are a human being experiencing a chaotic time of life.

2) It’s okay to not only acknowledge that you’re human, but it’s just as okay to actually be human. The thing that makes us beautifully human and humanly beautiful is that we were created to coexist; to be connected — to God, to each other, to nature, to ourselves. Living fully into your humanness means understanding and accepting that you need others to navigate the world. Do not keep your feelings locked inside. It’s okay to reach out and allow others to help you carry your burdens (just make sure you do the same for someone else when you’re strong enough). Remember that you are not alone in what you’re going through, and you don’t have to be alone in facing it. Call someone you trust. If you don’t trust anyone, recognize that fear is keeping you disconnected, probably because someone let you down in the past. But THAT someone AIN’T everyone! You’re a different person today than you were back then. Be brave right now…be courageous…and try talking to someone again. Call a helpline. Get a therapist. Find a faith leader. Talk to your doctor, a good friend, or even a close relative.

3) Build and use your Emotional First Aid Kit. When things get tough, especially this holiday season, have a plan for self-care. Now, I’m not talking about stocking up on alcohol and edibles (no judgment if you do *LOL*). But, I’m talking about tapping into the things and possibly people who will help you connect in, connect up, and connect out. This is a unique plan of care that works for you. Whatever nourishes, heals, and treats the places in your soul that hurt. I recommend having in your kit: something that makes you laugh; something that makes you move; something that helps you safely express your feelings; something that allows you to nurture/affirm yourself; and something that helps you rest. See my next post for tips, ideas, and examples of what to include in your Emotional First Aid Kit.

4) Finally in your self-care plan, include accountability. This could look a few different ways. You could share your plan of care with a close friend, and then occasionally check in as you work through your Emotional First Aid Kit. You could be brave again and post your journey of care through the holidays on social media. If you choose to do this, I suggest creating a private group that will offer you control over who gets to support you. If you have the discipline, you could journal to hold yourself accountable. No matter what you choose to do, make sure you have the push for accountability needed to take better care of yourself during a difficult holiday season.

For now, I close with these word: Be good to you. Be gentle with yourself. Be compassionate within, and may compassion flow out to others who need it as well. With God, we will get through this together.