Holidays can evoke feelings of loneliness forcing people to confront what they want but don't have. Laurel cried as she told me that the second Christmas following her husband's death is more difficult that the first. The first year, family and friends surrounded her. The second year, her husband's death is not uppermost in anyone's mind but hers. She finds herself tearful.
Why, one might ask, are holidays worse than other times? It's about expectations. For example, everyone is expected to be joyous and festive at holiday times. We are told to "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"; advertisements feature family dinners; TV stories about love and connection explode during holidays. No wonder holiday blues.
So what can you do? I asked Laurel to share what she is doing to beat the holiday blues:
1. She shared her story and tears with someone outside of her immediate circle of friends;
2. She is using both short-term and long-term strategies.
Long-term: She made up her mind to take charge next year. For example, she has made a conscious decision to plan a trip with a friend, or find an elder hostel (now road hostel) trip and go alone.
Short-term: Laurel will take one or two "mini-adventures" over the holidays. She will visit a new museum that is opening this season, go to all the movies she has not seen; and she has located a theatre that is having a Christmas day performance;
3. Her new mantra: "Smile When You're Feeling Low." Just making yourself smile will make a world of difference. She still cries but then the smile comes on her face.
Nancy K. Schlossberg
Author: Overwhelmed: Coping with Life's Ups and Downs (for information on the book, see www.transitionsthroughlife.com)