Hey, sis. Before diving into today’s post, I want to let you know that this one might be emotionally challenging for some. Preparing our hearts for the holidays includes dealing with some of the harder stuff that our hearts struggle with, especially at this time of year.
This post does include topics of grief, loss of a loved one, and miscarriage.
I never want to trigger unpleasant emotions or trauma responses, so please keep those healthy boundaries in mind that we’re always talking about! If knowing that up front triggers big feelings that you’re not ready for, this might not be the post for you to read today. And that’s ok! There have been times when I wasn’t ready to hear or talk about it, either. It will be here if and when you’re ready for it.
Reasons for Preparing Your Heart
The focus of the Christmas season is usually love, joy, and peace, but a lot of us struggle to share good tidings and joy to the world.
Instead, we enter the holidays with grief and hurt due to:
- Loss of family member or friend
- Toxic relationships
- Feeling alone while single or isolated from family (relationally or geographically)
- Food battles, allergies, or triggers
Full disclosure: I’m working through all of this right there with you! Do not read the rest of this post and think, “Wow, Rachel really has it all figured out.” Your girl is a hot mess over here, and I’m just sharing what I learn along the way. The ideas shared here are intended to help us deal with what we’re in to move through it and be present for the moment we want to be in. Let’s look at how we can approach these difficult times or situations in a healthy way that helps us to cope and move forward.
How to Enjoy the Holidays When It’s Hard
Feel the feels
The first way to lighten a heavy load on the heart is to acknowledge the feelings.
This is something I’ve really had to work on! I like to logic my way through my feelings, but I’m slowly learning the value of allowing space for them.
Stuffing the weight of your emotions down or ignoring them isn’t helping you or anyone around you. Don’t wallow in it forever, but let your feelings exist there for a minute.
Let them have some space.
Our emotions do get a seat at the table, but they don’t get to be the boss running the show.
They get a seat, we hear them, we acknowledge them, and we work through them.
Honor those you lost
If Christmas is difficult because you’ve lost someone you loved, I want to give you the permission to honor that person in some way. This is a hard one for me every year! My Papaw left this earth on Christmas Day in 2008 after a long battle with cancer. I had two miscarriages between the two children that I have right now, and both losses were right around the holidays.
One of the best gifts I’ve ever received was a glass Christmas ornament in the shape of a pacifier. The friend who gave it to me said, “You don’t have to hang this up this year. You don’t have to hang this up ever. But I’ve been through this. And I just want you to have something to remember your babies because they mattered.”
Miscarriage is a whole thing, and we’re not going to deep dive into it today. But a lot of women don’t talk about it when it happens, or they think it’s just something wrong with them. So let me just say that it’s okay, and even recommended, to honor your baby in some way.
And so, every year at Christmas, we pull out that pacifier ornament to hang on the Christmas tree. My kids know that there were two other babies that could have grown up with them, but they’re in heaven instead. We hang our ornament, we remember those we lost, and then we celebrate the holidays together.
Boundaries and escape plans
For relationships that are difficult, one of the best things you can do is to proactively set some boundaries, and if needed, have an escape plan. If the boundaries you set for yourself are crossed by the other person, that’s your cue to leave! Do whatever you need to do in that situation to remove yourself from that scenario. Again, we’re not doing a deep dive here. But just know you don’t have to stay in a place that is toxic.
I think we’ve clearly established by now that some of the things about this season are hard. They somehow become even extra hard when it’s supposed to be extra joyful, right? So find the things where you can cultivate joy!
What lights you up?
What is it in this season that you are especially thankful for?
Name it. Own it. Wallow in it!
Because if we sit in the “yuck,” then yes, the whole season feels like yuck. But if we acknowledge the “yuck,” honor it, do something to recognize it, and then also cultivate joy alongside moments of gratitude, the Christmas season becomes more meaningful and enjoyable.
Breathing Room for Your Heart
This time of year is supposed to ooze comfort and joy, but it can also bring heartache and tears. Create some breathing room to acknowledge the feelings you have and validate their existence.
They can show up and say hi, but they don’t get to run the show all season. Honor those you lost, set boundaries for tricky situations and difficult relationships, and be intentional about cultivating joy each day.
Journaling is a great way to get out All The Feelings. They are all valid, and space is needed to acknowledge them all.
Journal the hard stuff, brainstorm what brings you joy, and write out your boundaries or escape plan. Always take a moment to write a few things you’re thankful for each day.
This was not meant to be a post focused on gratitude as we approach Thanksgiving, but I do want to remind you that the practice of identifying what you’re grateful for is a healing process.
This could be the perfect time to start with a new journal (I’ve got a few you’ll love!), and discover the healing power of writing it all down.