How Do we Handle the Holiday Emotions?

I was getting some things ready for the holidays and arriving guests; buzzing around washing sheets, making beds, pulling out holiday linens, taking stock of the pantry, collecting my favorite recipes, doing all of the typical holiday nesting and all of a sudden I felt it; rising up from my hips, moving through my gut, grabbing my heart along the way, and coming out in a mournful wail.

This tearful wave of multiple raw unnamed emotions tsunamied me out of nowhere. And although I wasn’t entirely sure of the origins of all the grief, I allowed the flow. Whatever and from wherever, it clearly needed to come out. And when it stopped, I was an emotional puddle. I felt hollow, depleted and tired. Not the way I had felt only moments before and not the way I wanted to experience my holidays.

My holidays aren’t like they were before losing my father-in-law and father, before the divorce, before the kids went to college and the Army, before so many big changes. My recent visit with my mom and stepdad from Colorado was making me miss them even more than usual this time of year. Plus, I knew both of my boys would not be home; the first time ever. But, I was handling all this well. Or so I thought since I’d still been excited and happy to be preparing for a houseful of guests, culminating with our big feast. Then THIS.

So…what to do with all of these contradictory emotions?

Holidays have an odd way of mixing things up, don’t they? One minute we’re celebrating, the next on the verge of tears. Throw in elation, depression, contentment, discontent and more all in a span of 24 hours or less (as I clearly experienced) and it feels so, well, unsettling and confusing. Seriously. What the…?!?!?

But, guess what? Those emotional swings don’t mean we are crazy! We can feel joy and sadness and all that’s in the spaces between, seemingly at the same time and it’s not only ok, but completely normal.

How to not just survive but thrive with a bit of grace.

There’s something about the holidays that especially points out the swiftness of life. We don’t get to sit across the table from the same people each year and that can be hard. Change is inevitable, out of our control, and often doesn’t feel good. It can swallow us whole and take over everything if we aren’t mindful.

So this is what I am figuring out and want to share with you just in case you are feeling the same.

  • Choose gratitude and appreciation for those we do have near.

  • Welcome new people who come into our lives to bring fresh air and new love.

  • Choose to surround ourselves with people who accept us for who we are, laugh and even cry with us at times.

  • Do not try to perfectly recreate past memorable holidays, but rather leave room for the unexpected.

  • Corners of our hearts may feel bruised. Some melancholy moments may be lurking. Acknowledge them, lean into them and feel them, but don’t let them consume you.

  • It’s ok to go off and have a good cry and explain it to no one, even yourself.

  • Finally, it is a choice to allow it all in and to still rise up. Do not let the harder emotions sabotage all we do have in front of us or we miss out. We can allow the light and dark to coexist. It’s part of the richness and complexity of life and if you are feeling this, you are FULLY in it!

Because next year and the next holiday will all be different yet again. Guaranteed. In the end, I suppose what we feel is a combination of not just missing someone or some event, but also the recognition that life is happening and it doesn’t slow down. If we are noticing this and embracing it, then we are in the midst of a personal evolution. THIS, all of this, is what it means to be alive. And even if it doesn’t always feel good, we can still be grateful for the experiences. The changes can often be so uncomfortable and painful, yet it’s how we grow and evolve, isn’t it?

Wishing you laughter, hugs, love, and if needed, a box of tissues to carry you through this holiday season.