For some of us, facing the holidays with altered plans feels overwhelming. For some it may even feel hopeless and joy-less. Some may wonder why they should observe the holiday at all. What’s the point?
I understand. It’s easy to feel deflated and defeated. My family of 3 had an unusual Thanksgiving alone, rather than a lively time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins – some of whom we only see once a year. While it certainly wasn’t what we would choose, it was necessary and even (in some ways) good.
So, I want you to know this: The holidays can be good even if they are different. Don’t let your mind tell you otherwise. For example, we thought about the people we missed and recalled our favorite Thanksgiving memories. We prepared our favorite parts of the meal and didn’t bother with the rest. We decorated the tree together the next day. We were thankful we weren’t stuck in traffic! We can still find glimpses of joy in the unexpected and even in the deeply unfortunate.
At the same time, I want you to hear this: Don’t let your mind tell you that you shouldn’t be sad. That’s a lie.
We must grieve what we’ve lost, grieve what cannot be. Lying to ourselves about our feelings will not end well. Moving through the emotions is necessary. As Emily and Amelia Nagoski say in their book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle:
To be ‘well’ is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again. Stress is not bad for you; being stuck is bad for you.
Ignoring our emotions – refusing to processing them – doesn’t make them go away. Actually, they grow bigger and more powerful. Unresolved grief is just one possible result and one that is especially relevant in 2020.
To survive the pandemic with our physical health and not our mental health is not actually surviving.
If your mind is “should-ing” your feelings, call out that lie right now. Say it out loud. Don’t let your mind lie to you. You may need help recognizing the tricks your mind plays on you, and that is ok. (I often do.) Please ask someone you trust to help you or seek out a counselor.
Above all, know you are allowed to hold grief and gratitude at the same time.