Many are finding it tough to feel gratitude these days, as we face a cancelled holiday.
I know these feelings. I’ve been here before.
The year when my mom and uncle were killed in a car accident just over two months before Christmas, I felt like our holidays had been cancelled.
I felt it even more so when my dad died just a month before Christmas two years later. With that loss came the loss of the family home where we typically celebrated Christmas.
Both years, as Christmas rolled around, I myself feeling anything but festive or joyful. I had kids and other family members who had certain expectations of what the holidays would look like. But I had zero interest in celebrating the holidays.
I’ve heard from so many people recently telling me that they’re experiencing similar feelings nowadays, as the reality of new, unwelcome COVID holiday plans are staring us in the face.
People are feeling a pressure to make sure that this is a special time for their family. At the same time, their energy is waning at the end of a tough year. They’d rather simply cuddle up in front of the fire with a warm blanket and a book than feel pressure to pretend that they’re fine.
So, what should you do for the holidays?
There’s a lot of messages floating around about what you should be doing as you face a holiday that is so different from most years.
I mean, even the premier of Quebec tried to reassure everyone that they should just simply take a nap.
[Insert face palm emoji here]
However, the real key is knowing that those answers are within you. You are the only one who truly knows what you need over the next few weeks in order to feel restored at the end of the holiday period rather than more drained.
In learning to manage the change in the holidays back when my parents passed, I discovered that we had to redefine what the holidays looked like.
The year of the accident, we had a babysitter draw a Christmas tree on multiple sheets of paper and we taped that to the wall. That became the Christmas tree that we left the presents under that year.
We scaled way back in both decorations and the meal, to preserve our energy.
I made sure that my schedule allowed for lots of down time in between activities that I found more draining.
I checked in with myself regularly to see how I was feeling and made adjustments to our plans as the holidays evolved.
So yes, there’s a lot of advice about how to adjust your “normal” holiday routine to have just as fabulous of a holiday as usual.
But just know that it’s also okay to not be feeling awesome about the holidays this year.
It’s okay to take time to grieve what was supposed to be, what didn’t happen this year, and to do the holidays in a way that you want to.
Finding gratitude when everything feels messy
One of the most significant practices that helped me to adjust to the new life circumstances that were thrown my way years ago was developing a gratitude practice.
Stay with me here.
I can completely understand if your reaction in reading this is to scream at the screen “but what do I have to be grateful for??? I can’t see my family / I’ve lost a loved one / I’ve lost my job / my business is going under / I’ve had to work myself to the bone since the pandemic started and am beyond exhausted”.
All of that is true.
(To varying degrees, of course, depending on what you’ve been faced with this past year. But I think everyone can identify with this to one extent or another.)
Developing a gratitude practice doesn’t mean convincing yourself that you feel grateful for what you’ve lost this year.
It means finding the one thing in your life that you truly do feel grateful for. Not the thing that you’re supposed to feel grateful for. That thing that leaves you with a sense of felt gratitude in your body, each time you experience it.
It can be something incredibly small.
It may be playing with your dog, a phone call to a friend or grandkids, taking a walk outside alone or sitting on the couch with a warm drink.
Whatever that one thing is, that thing that you already feel grateful for – find ways to incorporate it into your routine more over the holidays.
Take pause each time you experience it, to experience it fully.
Do it multiple times a day if you need to.
It just may make the upcoming holidays a little more peaceful and perhaps, a little more meaningful than they would be otherwise.
On that note, I’m sending holiday wishes to each and every one of you, no matter the circumstances this year, with hopes that next year, we’ll all be able to get back to our regular ways of celebrating the holiday with our families.
With gratitude for your support this past year.
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