A Holiday Season Like No Other

It should come as no surprise that the holidays look different this year due to COVID.  Many of us are still sheltering in place, limiting social interactions and continue to social distance during this time.  For many of us, our normal holiday traditions will be changing this year due to not being able to see our loved ones. 

It is essential that we acknowledge and validate our feelings surrounding the changes that have occurred this year due to COVID and the impact it will have on our holiday plans.  It is essential that we do not deny our feelings surrounding these changes but rather validate our experience as well as the experience of others to help us all get through this time.  It can be helpful to journal about your feelings, talk to a friend and recognize that your feelings may be different this year than in the past and to acknowledge that these feelings are common and widespread.

It is also important that we take the time to acknowledge what we have lost this year.  Many people have lost their jobs, have been unable to attend school, have lost loved ones and family members and all of us have lost a sense of normalcy in our daily lives.  Through each loss we have endured we are often left with different feelings surrounding grief. 

Understand that it is completely normal and appropriate to grieve the loss of what has been lost this year.  Grief is a complex process that has many stages that we will move in and out of as we process our feelings.  Grief includes feelings of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  It is not uncommon to experience many of these feelings at once or at different times.  Grieving is a process, and it takes time to experience and cope with the complex emotions that it evokes in all us.  Rather than focus on getting rid of your feelings or denying them it can be far more helpful to accept what you are feeling so you can figure out the best strategies to cope with these changes.

It is also essential to remember that the holidays, although filled with joy and happiness, can be quite stressful for many of us.  During this time of year people often experience more stress due to traveling, having more to do and also having to attend gatherings with others that may not be the best company.  It is essential that we do not romanticize the holidays but see them for what they actually are. 

Although the holidays can bring us joy, the amount of stress and chaos that accompany this joy are often hard to endure.  Hopefully this season will be less stressful for us and we can shift our focus to validating our feelings and the feelings of others, acknowledging the loss we have all endured and being realistic about what our experiences of holidays in the past have entailed.  This will help us all cope with challenging feelings that arise during this time and can create a new platform for friends and families to talk openly about their thoughts and feelings with each other about these changes. 

By: Amber Sanner, LMFT