fall is well underway, and we’ve officially entered the holiday season. as we all know, as fun as this time of the year appears on paper, it can and is stressful. whether you’re traveling afar, hosting a crowd of people, or dealing with it alone, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s back-to-back can be overwhelming. this week on the blog, we’re going to talk self-care. self-care can take a lot of forms, and we’ll talk a lot about it this week, but today i’m going to focus on managing grief during the holidays.
as a disclaimer, i should say upfront: i’m not a grief counselor, therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. nothing i say here is intended to take the place of a trained professional. it is only my goal to share certain difficult aspects of my life and strategies i use to cope. it is my hope that posts like today not only provide you a pleasant distraction by continuing with me on my fashion journey, but also a sense of camaraderie as we enter a season that but most accounts shouldn’t be difficult, but oftentimes, is.
resisting the urge to be alone
grief can come from a variety of different sources and places, and it can manifest itself in unforeseen ways. you may have lost a loved one this year. you may be estranged from a family member. you may find yourself facing an illness. you may be going through financial hardship. or it may be something else quite entirely.
as many of you know, i lost my husband of 36 years this summer. this is the first holiday season i am going to face alone. not alone alone—my kiddos will all be here—but alone in a sense all of those who have been married will understand. it’s difficult; it’s painful; and it’s just plain heartbreaking. it’s all of those things. and based on the outpouring of support, i know many of you—my readers—are going through the same thing this year.
first and foremost, know that i’m sorry, and i empathize. there’s nothing i can say—nothing anyone can say—that will make things better in any meaningful sense. but here inlies my first point: this holiday season, it’s important not to deal with grief alone.
you may not know how to make your grief precise—you may not know what to say at any given moment—and the same may be true for the people in your life. i can assure you that our family and friends want to take take your grief away—at least in part—but may not know what to do. words oftentimes fail us.
but don’t try to tackle your grief alone. take your friend up on their offer for a coffee. answer that 9:48PM phone call from your sister. fly out to visit your daughter for Thanksgiving. sometimes the sheer act of being forced to articulate our amorphous thoughts and feelings into words is therapy in and of itself. or, maybe this year it’s time to take the plunge and seek out a therapist.
the point is simple: reach out to the people that make up your life, and allow them to reach out to you. don’t face the holidays alone.
letting go of expectations
are you responsible for Thanksgiving dinner? are you hosting a family Christmas this year? do you have a series of office parties you’re expected to attend this December? do you have an entire house to decorate for November, December, and January? do you have Hanukkah gifts to purchase for children and grandchildren?
the holidays bring with them all sorts of responsibilities and expectations. some of those expectations are brought on by others, but many of them are self-imposed.
those expectations can create an enormous amount of stress, and if you’re also grieving, that stress can exacerbate the grief and lead to guilt. all of a sudden, you’re now trapped in a feedback loop of stress, grief, guilt, and guilt, grief, stress. it’s not fun. to say the least.
you can break that cycle: subvert expectations. what i mean is this. to alleviate holiday stress and help manage grief, it’s OK to do things a little bit differently this year. if you’re traditionally responsible for a homemade Thanksgiving dinner, scratch “homemade”, and order one from Whole Foods. (i’ve done that many times, and trust me, it’s good.)
if you’re supposed to host family for a week this Christmas, but that feels just a little bit too overwhelming, ask your daughter and son-in-law if they’re willing to. if i’ve learned anything about you, my readers, you all have broad shoulders. you can and do take on and handle a lot. but i’m here to remind you—only because i have to remind myself—it’s OK to be vulnerable and ask for help. especially during the holidays.
if cutting back on the decorations is going free up a late November weekend, do it. spend that weekend taking care of yourself. if skipping a holiday party is going to allow you to grab a drink with an old friend and reconnect, then skip it. what is going to help manage grief more? personal interactions trump impersonal ones. every single time. this year, let go of both implicit and explicit expectations. it will help you manage your grief in totally unforeseen ways.
the importance of family
for those of you that follow me regularly, you know the importance i place on family. what do we really have in this life if not family? that being said, family isn’t always easy. oftentimes, it’s just plain work. but is there any better way to deal with grief than to reach out and bring your family closer? (the power of a hug is actually amazing.)
oftentimes, family can bring with it stress, anger, and resentment. it’s hard to say that out loud. but it’s true. we may have a sibling who said something hurtful all those years ago that we’re still holding onto. we may have a child who made a decision we don’t agree with, which in turn led to a fight, which in turn led to six months of radio silence.
stories like this run the full spectrum of existence, but we’re all familiar with them. if we’re dealing with grief, the added complexity of family history, spurred on by holiday expectations, can be a recipe for frustration and sadness. but let’s flip that script for just a minute.
there is no time of year that better allows an excuse to reconnect and rebuild our familia relationships than the holidays. what’s stopping us from picking up the phone and reaching out to a brother we haven’t spoken to in years? what’s stopping us from getting on a plane and visiting a daughter who moved away last year?
the holiday season affords us the power of forgiveness. and it’s always worth exercising. no matter what. because at the end of the day, family is everything. and even when—especially when—we’re grieving, a hug from a loved one is transformative in a way only words can barely capture.
managing grief during the holidays
today, we talked about managing grief during the holidays by i) not facing the holidays alone; ii) letting go of expectations; iii) reaching out and/or reconnecting with family. it’s my hope that one, if not all of these strategies help, at least in part, you deal with any grief you may be facing this year.
given the potential heaviness of the post, i didn’t walk through my outfit of the day in any real detail. however, the theme today is obviously “cozy” and “comfort”. part of self-care is taking days to just be cozy and comfortable, and you’ll find links to each item of my outfit inline above.
in case you missed it
first and foremost, i want to thank all of you for making last week’s travel week a resounding success. by all major metrics, it was our biggest week on the blog. and in fact, October was our biggest month of all time. in case you missed my river cruise with junior style, check out our travel diary part 1, part 2, and part 3. and if you’re looking for travel tips and tricks, check out the definitive guide to international travel.
moving forward, we’re changing up your YouTube schedule slightly. we’ll be regularly posting Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday. in case you missed it, yesterday we published a new entry into our Style Secrets series. checkout the video below for my final fall haul from JCPenny.
we’ve got a lot of exciting content lined up for you during the holiday season, so make sure to keep sharing these posts on your social media channels like Facebook. and if you haven’t already, sign up for our email newsletter on the sidebar to your right if you’re on desktop, and at the end of the page if you’re on mobile.