The holiday season is meant to be filled with laughter, joy, renewed hope, giving, and a return to the fundamental basics that keep us grounded - faith, family, and friends. But, for many, the holidays are a stark reminder of pain, loss, loneliness, sorrow, and depression.
I grew up in a large family where holidays were often central. Gathering with thirty or forty family members and friends for a Thanksgiving meal or traveling to both grandparents' homes for Christmas festivities are all vivid childhood memories - and moments I wish I could relive and share with my kids.
The reality that you can't go back is ever present during the holidays. What once was is no longer, and even though you wish you could turn back the clock, it simply isn't possible. Loved ones have graduated to God's presence, while those of us who remain are often scattered abroad, making it even more of a challenge to commune and fellowship as we once did.
But, there is hope at the end of your holiday rope!
Although we have great holiday memories of years gone by, our responsibility is to take those memories and create opportunities!
What do I mean?
Now, a family of four, it is not fair to my spouse and children to wish the past to the present, simply because they were not in my past. And, yes, we certainly wish we could merge to two together, but life goes on. This is a new season, a new chance to create memories that my children will be able to draw upon. And, it is our responsibility as parents to ensure the memories made now are moments they will cherish later, and serve as a model for their own families one day.
But, what if you don't have a spouse or children? What if you are single, a widow, or your children have grown and moved away?
You still have a responsibility to create opportunities for others. The best way to do this is by volunteering your time or offering to cover a shift at work so someone who has family can spend time with their loved ones - one of the greatest gifts of love you can express toward someone else!
This is mutually beneficial, by the way.
While you give of yourself to help someone else through the holidays, you will find your own holiday loneliness and depression melt away.
Here are a few tips to help you get through the holidays:
1. Reach Out - If you can't be with family or friends this holiday season, reach out by calling them, sending them letters or cards, and simply having conversation. This will help you connect from a distance. Plus, with today's technology, Facetime, Skype, and Google Hangouts are all great applications to make that connection even more personable.
2. Take Yourself on a Date - Rather than sit at home for the holidays, attending your own pity party and encouraging depression, go see a movie you have wanted to see or go for a drive to see holiday lights and turn up the music - be the rock star at your own concert!
3. Get Connected - Volunteering at homeless shelters, visiting the elderly, participating in community activities, etc. will help you feel connected to people and give you a perspective that virtually eliminates depression, while offering you an opportunity to help and bless others. You may find the one who is most blessed is YOU!
4. Create an Alternate Family - Connect with other singles or people in your community and offer to host a holiday potluck, inviting others to join you in food, fellowship, fun, or festivities. Maybe coming together to watch a holiday program or playing games is the mood. Great! Imagine the impact you can have on one another when no one is left to their own devices!
5. Attend a Church Service - Often we get so caught up in our own self-pity and loneliness that we forget the holidays surround important religious events and spiritual purposes. Thanksgiving is a time of personal reflection and gratitude to God for His bountiful blessings. Christmas (albeit so commercialized) is a celebration of Jesus' birth and the coming of Messiah. Easter is the celebration of Christ's resurrection and power over death. Going to church will not only help us keep our focus on the true meaning of each holiday, but it will also put us in a positive environment where we can take the focus off our loneliness and place it on the Caregiver, Who should be the center of attention, anyway.
The most important thing to remember is that the holidays don't have to be lonely or depressing. You can choose to create new traditions, make new memories, and celebrate new moments that are not bound by your past or your circumstances.
Don't just read this blog. Apply it! Do it! And you'll find your holidays are better than expected.
Happy Thanksgiving! Merry Christmas! And many blessings from our house to yours!