Christmas shot frameA few years back, I wrote up a little piece about my experience as the Official Holiday Martyr and what that position got me.

In the intervening years (at least 10), my attitude and actions have changed, and so have my family. I no longer kill myself getting things ready to make Christmas a special time for my family. My children are grown. The elder one has been out of the country the last four Christmases, and the younger one has requested that I not make such a big fuss with presents, as she is no longer a child (24, as of this writing).

My financial situation has changed considerably too. My moolah used to vary somewhere between enough and plenty, but recent years have seen a much slimmer wallet in my purse.

On the bright side, I now have a sweet sweetheart, and we share a lovely condo on the Bayou in Houston. How we “do” Christmas is mostly up to me, but there are a few restrictions:

  • He will watch holiday movies with me, but not Rankin-Bass kiddie shows.
  • There is still a financial limit–makes it easier to comply with my young-un’s request not to give her too many gifts.
  • We live in a condo, so no outdoor decorations.

And all that is fine. What I am experiencing now is grief over the “death” of Christmases Past. My first husband died after our older daughter’s seventh Christmas, and I think part of all my hard work to make Christmas magical and special for the children was due to his absence. I also wanted to re-create the wondrous Christmases of my own childhood (thanks, Mom!).

Between moving out of our beloved home in 2010, becoming “poor”, and my children growing up, Christmas just isn’t the same. I now have a grandson to spoil–and he’s Jewish. Now, I can still spoil him rotten with Christmas, especially since his other grandma is Jewish and will not be hogging the holiday (although she and I are great friends and, even if she were Christian, we would be doing the holiday up really big together). However, he lives far away, and we may not always get to spend Christmas together.

I feel like my explanation isn’t really describing how I am feeling. And I know many people struggle with the holidays for reasons such as missing their loved ones, having lost their faith, illness (their own or a loved one’s), and many other sound reasons. But I have learned in my wise old 52 years that problems are problems and there is no sense in comparing. We all have pain and we all have joy. And you know the old saying, “Sorrows shared are halved, and joys shared are doubled.”

So I am halving my sorrows here with you. Yes, I have so very much for which to be grateful. But I am feeling blue at times this season because of the wonderful joys of the past–another thing for which to be grateful!–the memories of which are causing me grief.

Now. I did call this “How to Deal with Holiday Stress”, didn’t I? So how am I dealing with my holiday stress?

  1. Talk to someone who will be sympathetic. (Please avoid the one who will say, “Oh, get over it–it’s the holidays!”) I have talked to my sweetheart, Don, about it, and he has helped me to see that, while it’s okay to be sad, I can find things to be happy about too. And I can. If you don’t have such a wonderful honey or friend, try your therapist.
  2. Make some happy plans. I have researched and found a Christmas Eve church service in the town we will visit for the holidays, and I plan to take my mom there, if she wants to go. I’ve also made plans for my mom and daughter (and have invited others in our group) to do our nails, holiday style, at my daughter’s house. I have loosely sketched out the holiday movies and shows I want to watch. Don and I will go light-peeping several times through the month. I’m also having a lot of fun planning some DIY gifts. I find that a little planning helps a lot; something to look forward to always lifts your spirits.
  3. Do what you can with what you have. See my DIY plans, above. In the 5-year “house fire” to which most of my “STUFF” was lost/purged, many of my Christmas decorations found their way out of my life. But I have enough to decorate a pretty tree and I have my music! Music is such a huge mood-changer for most people. If you don’t have CD’s, a stereo, or a computer with your music on it, tune in your car radio to the local station with all the Christmas music and sing along!
  4. Ah. Music. I am filling my ears with music almost 24/7. I do that most of the time, anyway, but right now, I am really enjoying my old burned CD’s with holiday playlists, cool commercial CD’s (like the one that is carols all played on steel drums), and especially the old vinyl Christmas albums from my childhood.

For some people, there is nothing to do but try their best to ignore the holidays. If you find that you are too depressed even to hear “Merry Christmas!” without bursting into tears, please seek professional help. It is out there, and you don’t have to suffer through every year.

Please feel free to add to this list in the comments. And Happy Holidays to you and yours!