You Can Cry If You Want To!

2020! Christmas. Unlike any other I have experienced. Thanks to Coronavirus, the spread of it, illness and deaths because of it, precautions we take to reduce the spread and try to keep ourselves from contracting it – for ourselves and our loved ones. For everyone I know, this means smaller family bubbles for the holidays. And this makes me sad. Deeply, profoundly sad.

In 2011, I wrote this post describing Christmas as the season of amplification – of joy and of sorrow. It was the last Christmas my mother was alive – just barely, in long term care because of dementia. Emotions are always present in our lives if we have lived a minute. Every year of life this becomes more so as life’s experiences continue to accumulate.

This is the first Christmas without my dad. It is the first Christmas since we’ve been together that Jerry will not be with me for Christmas. The first Christmas my whole family cannot gather in one place. It’s been a year, as consultants, that all our client work has been postponed. Travel stopped. It’s all still disorienting.

Yet, we’ve been re-imagining our business during this time, opening new explorations and looking to the future. A vaccine is on the horizon. Next Christmas will look different again – hopefully in more ways we celebrate rather than mourn. In the meantime, my house is decorated. The tree is up. Jerry and I have a tentative plan to be together for a month post-Christmas.

I continue to reflect on my experience and how to move with and through the unusual holiday season. Here are 10 thoughts on how to do this.

  1. You can cry if you want to. Encourage the tears. Let them flow. A good cry is healthy.
  2. Laugh. You may not feel much like laughing, but laughter lifts the spirits, is good for the soul and is also healthy. And, it’s okay to laugh, give yourself permission, even as the world is different than it used to be. Watch funny movies, remember funny events, read books that make you laugh.
  3. Connect. Bubble with the friends or family you have chosen to bubble with and spend time with them. Reach out to other people you care about. Text. Phone. Video call. Think particularly about the people you know are alone or suffering even more than you. There are some who have no one to bubble with.
  4. Find or create comfort for yourself. This could be food, books, movies, music, traditions you allow yourself to carry out even if you are alone or have a smaller bubble. Decorating my tree with my small family bubble was one for me. Making gingerbread cookies to share will be another. Wrapping myself in a blanket to watch a movie or read a book brings comfort.
  5. If you are buying Christmas gifts, shop local. It’s always a good idea and never more needed. Support local craftspeople, artists and shop owners. And make donations to people in more need than you.
  6. Support a local restaurant that offers take out. Buy a meal for yourself and buy one for someone else if you can.
  7. Allow yourself to revisit all the beautiful memories of other holidays. Sink into them and let them wash over you. Last year, my dad was not well. Jerry was here and we spent a lot of time in Lunenburg with him – including bringing Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and other family festivities to him over a 2 week period. We knew it might be his last. It was time well spent and makes me smile. There are so many more memories that make me smile – decades of them.
  8. Take care of your body. Sleep. Exercise. Walk. Eat reasonably well.
  9. Take care of your mental and emotional wellbeing. 2020 is a time when anxiety, depression and emotional balance have been extraordinarily challenged. Then add in the stress that can come with the holidays. Reduce the things that cause you increased anxiety. This might be putting yourself on a social media diet. Or taking medication. Or deciding not to do a particular thing this year. Last year, for me, it was a decision not to do gingerbread houses – a treasured tradition for me for more than 2 decades. Not doing them this year either. Do or don’t do whatever else will contribute to your emotional and mental well-being.
  10. Look to the future. Next Christmas, hopefully, we will not be talking small family bubbles but be able to gather in our extended family and friend networks again without fear of spreading a virus. 2021 brings a promise deeper than our usual New Years. We couldn’t have anticipated that 2020 would be the shit show it has been, but the future holds promise.

For those of you who have lost loved ones in the last year, I send love and compassion. To those on the front lines of battling coronavirus, I send gratitude. To everyone masking up, washing hands, trying to follow arrows in stores and keeping your contact with others minimal, thank you. We’ve got this. We just need a touch more patience and willingness to be disciplined in our behaviours.

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