Holidays Got You Blue?

6 Ideas to Handle Sadness During the Holidays

Twinkle lights, bells, beautiful music that carries lovely messages about peace on earth and silent nights.

The holidays can be a magical time.  They can also be very sad.

Because the holidays are a time when families get together, for those who have lost parents, spouses, children, siblings and/or friends, that vacancy is exaggerated during the holidays.

Most people use the term “loss” to suggest death but for the purpose of this article it relates to any form of separation including distance and divorce.

December 2014 was my first post-divorce-Christmas but I had my daughters to wake up with. This year I will wake up with just my 10 year old Schnauzer/Terrier mix named Bruiser and while he is a God-send in so many ways, Christmas don’t mean much to him except a new tennis ball and maybe a new dog toy.

I’m proud of the relationship I have with my former husband.  Last year I extended an invitation for him to come over Christmas morning before the kids woke up so that he was here before they came downstairs.

It was hard to tell if our girls were more excited about the presents under the tree or Dad being at Mom’s house when they woke up.

This year he has extended the same courtesy to me. So I’ll wake in the dark and make the 15 minute drive and be there to watch my girls' eyes light up as they descend the stairs.

And then I’ll be on my own until dinner with dear friends. I am so blessed to have been invited to many celebrations this year, surrounded by the surrogate family I’ve created.

While I am strong, positive and focused on gratitude, all of this is a lot to sort out emotionally. I’ve been a bit of a wreck about it.

I also feel a lack of understanding from people who are significantly important to me.  For this, I have to forgive myself for having these expectations. How could these people I love possibly understand if they have never been divorced? {insert your situation here} True understanding requires experience. (I should note that it’s on my gratitude list that my friends don’t have this experience to understand.)

I certainly haven’t perfected any coping mechanisms but the following is a list of things I’ve found useful as the emotional lows have been bigger and longer than normal.

My hope is that should you need this list, you’ll find solace in one or more of the items below.

I was reminded recently that people who care about you really do want to help you, but they might not know the best way. If something below resonates with you, just forward this on to start the conversation.

  • Get outside: Nature has a way of making everything feel better. If the sky is clear, go star gazing. Search for the moon and find a moment to just breathe it in. Walk in the sun if you are lucky enough to get some.  Or play in the snow.  Or breathe in the clean air after a rain shower. Find a scenic stretch looking West and catch the sunset.  Everything has cycles, nature is our best example, so when I’m feeling blue I look for the beauty around me and wait for the cycle to pass.
  • Get out of town: Sometimes you need more than a nature walk, you need a complete change of scenery. Whether driving or flying, sometimes shaking up the view can be enough to shake off your sadness. Whatever adventure-style works best for you is preferred. If you want to bring a travel companion, do so, just explain the point of the fly-away and ensure they know that your style takes precedence. Being in control of your experience will ensure that your scenery change does what it’s intended to do; help you heal.
  • Phone a friend: Sometimes having someone to listen, even if they have never been in your shoes, reminds you that while you might be missing someone, there’s another someone who’s got your back. A reminder that you have a safe place to rest your weary head. It helps, for the sake of your relationship, to tell that person exactly what you need from them: an open ear, a pat on the back, a perspective shift; whatever feels right to you - just communicate your needs in advance so the person on the other end of the line is set up for success in helping you.
  • Let it out: It’s normal to feel a bout of sadness and “hold it in” depending on where you are or what company you are with. It might not always be appropriate to let it out. The more you contain the sadness, however, the worse it gets. You need to carve out moments where you can just let the emotions flow. The peaks and valleys of your emotional roller coaster might be stronger but the whole episode will pass faster if you don’t fight it the whole time- I promise.
  • Exaggerate the self-care: Do you usually go out to dinner once a week to avoid the cooking/cleaning process? Go twice instead. Do you love to sleep? Go to bed early and give yourself extra pillow time. How about tea and a candle? A bath? A trip to the spa? Emotional work is hard work and it takes a lot out of you - self-care is a way to balance that scale matching intensity for intensity. In other words, the bigger your sadness, the stronger your need for self-care.
  • Create a look-forward-to: I love these - I call them lights at the end of the tunnel. These are nuggets that you book in advance so you have something to look forward to. This year, after the holidays are through, I’m going to see my sister, brother-in-law and nephews in Denver. When the sadness sets in, I set my sights on the date my plane takes off the and joy I’ll feel when I get to be with family again.

Whether you are approaching this holiday with the lightest or heaviest of hearts, my deepest wish is that love, light, warmth and peace find you and those you love this holiday season.