As a kid, the month of December was packed with wonder for me. I couldn't wait to get the tree up, decorate, and down some of those festive holiday cookies. It was a treat looking at all the lights and gazing at the store décor. I got a special thrill out of putting the dollar bill my dad slipped into my pocket into the Salvation Army bucket.
Oh, and then there were the presents. I count them every day until Christmas morning.
As I got older, the season naturally lost some of its wonder. I don't count presents under the tree or stay up late to watch the Santa Tracker anymore. Life became serious. Responsibilities increased. I settled into a more practical view of this time of year.
Losses came. They built up over time. I’m missing people this holiday. Chances are, you're missing a loved one too.
For some of us, this season might be more about surviving than celebrating. We put a good face on it, of course. Inside, however, we're sighing. We remember what was. Somehow the present just doesn't measure up.
Many of us have experienced the departure of friends, coworkers, and family members. Some are experiencing their first Christmas without their spouse, parent, sibling, or child. More than fanfare, lights, and presents, there are many who need comfort, hope, and healing.
December can be wonderful, but it can also be heavy. Here are 5 tips for transforming some of that holiday heaviness into holiday healing.
1. Pay attention to your heart
Your heart is your most prized possession. It is the guts of who you are. It needs nurture, care, comfort, and healing.
- What's going on inside you this holiday season?
- Are there troubling thoughts or worries that circle in your mind?
- Are there intense emotions threatening to hijack your holidays?
- Are you missing someone?
We're all unique. We're all in a slightly different heart-place. Wherever you are, be aware of your heart and find healthy ways to express what's happening inside. Be yourself – as real and authentic as possible.
We need each other – not each other's masks.
2. Manage those sneaky expectations
We all have expectations – of ourselves, of others, and of this holiday season. Conversely, others have expectations of us, too.
It's been said that an expectation is a disappointment waiting to happen.
We have expectations we're not aware of. Taking time to identify what we expect of ourselves and others this holiday is important.
Once we identify our expectations, we can evaluate them.
- Are they realistic?
- Have we communicated our expectations to others?
Unevaluated holiday expectations can lead to disappointment, discouragement, anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, and other things we don't want any part of.
Identify those expectations. Evaluate them. Pay attention to your heart.
3. Get around people who are helpful
This is a principle for healthy living all year round. During holidays, it's even more important.
We bump into all kinds of people during this season. We come into each situation with our previous experiences and conversations hanging about us. Our baggage accompanies us everywhere.
None of us are perfect. We mess up frequently, fail regularly, and end up hurting others probably more than we realize. Thankfully, we each have people in our circles who lift us up, inspire us, and help us feel safe. These hope-giving, love-spreading souls are precious to us.
Part of taking care of your heart is knowing which relationships are healthy for you and which ones aren't. Though negative, toxic influences are everywhere, you can enhance this holiday by surrounding yourself with healing and hopeful voices.
4. Make a simple plan to remember and honor those you're missing
We're all missing someone special. Each one of them was unique. Our relationship with them was one-of-a-kind. Those who have gone before us deserve to be remembered, talked about, and honored.
- Light a candle.
- Set up an empty chair.
- Make a donation in their honor.
- Serve in a cause they were passionate about.
- Write them a letter.
- Have a time of sharing memories.
There are so many possibilities.
How can you honor those you're missing this year? Be creative but keep it simple. Involve others, if you can.
5. Focus on people and relationships
Over the years, presents tend to lose their luster. After we have enough jolts, upsets, and losses, it becomes clear what really matters. Stuff is just stuff. People and relationships, on the other hand, are what life is all about.
What would it look like to structure our holidays around the twin priorities of people and relationships? If we put our energies and efforts here, most of us would experience more joy, less stress, more fulfillment, and less frustration.
Place the people you love and care about at the center of your heart and plans this December, and then watch what happens.
These holidays will be different, but they can still be good – even terrific. Live from your hearts. Love those around you well. The world needs you, more than ever before.