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When Christmas Doesn't Feel The Same

  All around, people are bustling & fulfilling all of their holiday dreams.  The last minute gifts are being bought, wrapped & addressed.  Preparations are started for all of the many meals that will be spread abroad around crowded tables in cozy dining rooms.  Poinsettias are vibrant, balsam is pungent & the children's eyes are glowing with anticipation of all of the exciting traditions that they wait for each year.  But what if this year is not the same as many others in your life?

This happens to all of us at some point or another in life.  Whether it's the death of a loved one, a divorce, a really difficult financial time, or a simple thing like a very recent move, some years don't seem to hold the sparkle of other years.  And, I'm here to tell you, it's okay.  It's okay that it doesn't feel like the rest of the years you remember.  It's okay if you need to take a break & step back from they busyness for a bit & re-gain perspective.  It's okay if your house isn't decorated to the hilt, or if you don't send out hundreds of Christmas cards.  Sometimes life just happens.  Let it happen.

But, on the other hand, there may be certain things that you can't ignore.  If you have children that are looking to you to make the holiday special, you can't let them all down.  Their joy is a large part of what makes the season special.  So what is a person to do?

  1. Gain perspective. Remind yourself (and your family) of the reason that you celebrate during this time.  It's easy to lose sight of your priorities when this time of year is full of hustle, bustle & everything nice.  Take some time to talk about why you celebrate & what's important to each of you.
  2. Set different expectations. If you're going through tough times, you still want to celebrate with others, but perhaps speak with them in advance about the expectations that they might have. Just saying things like, “It has been really rough since Maude died, & while I still want to get together with you, I'd also like to start serving at the soup kitchen to honor her memory while I'm still grieving.  Please don't be offended if I'm not at every gathering.”  This sets the stage for others to feel comfortable talking about your loss with you & possibly even to re-vamp traditions so that they will not be as painful for you.  If you're going through financial hardship, prepare your kids (& others) by letting them know that gifts will still be given, but they will be scaled back.  Remind them that you still love them & remind yourself that it's only temporary.
  3. Make new traditions that don't involve buying things. It takes more effort to plan to spend time with people apart from just buying things for them to do.  If you live in a place where you can gather greenery out of the woods, gather it together.  Plan to play favorite games, make snacks, string popcorn, watch special shows, or learn new skills (ever heard of German paper cutting?).
  4. This should perhaps be first on the list.  There is something about giving, especially when you feel as though you have nothing left to offer, that makes it incredibly meaningful to everyone involved.  Donate food to a food shelf, extra blankets to the Disabled Veterans, card stock & craft supplies to a local school or the activities department of a nursing home. Donate your time (which is even more valuable) to help sort things at a thrift store or to serving meals to the homeless or driving to deliver meals for Meals on Wheels, or even ringing a bell outside of a store.

Instead of allowing your holiday to feel awful for everything that it is not, try telling yourself, “It is not going to be the same, but it can still be positive.”  Sometimes just preparing ourselves for what lies ahead & being proactive in handling it is all that we need to face hard times.  And if this Christmas is one which is not the same as all the others that you've experienced, be patient with yourself.  It doesn't mean that you've lost Christmas spirit forever.  You just need to find a new way to operate within the changing landscape of your life.  You're not alone.

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