Confession: I have been in full-on denial about the holidays approaching. You may or may not have noticed, but we have not uttered a peep here on the blog about the looming season of good will and cheer. If I had mentioned it, it would have been only to express my deep anger at retail stores for putting Christmas stuff out before Halloween. BEFORE HALLOWEEN?!?! Are you kidding me?!?
But Halloween has come and gone. Day of the Dead was over a week ago. My job started a holiday food drive last week. My mom called me yesterday to start talking logistics about Thanksgiving. And today every store I entered had holiday displays out in full force. The time has come. The holidays are coming. There, I said it. It’s official. This is my public acknowledgement that the holidays are going to be here sooner than later, whether I like it or not.
Last month we posted 64 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Grief and on that list we said “holidays will be hard forever”. I was struck by the number of people who commented, saying they could related to that item specifically. On social media someone said, “I deluded myself into thinking that after the first year the holidays would go back to being normal and happy. 7 years later I now realize the holidays will always have some pain and, just like everything else, nothing goes back to normal.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
The holidays are a reminder of the people who should be at the holiday table, but are not. Their absence remains, even as the years pass. Of course it gets easier, but it is always a bit tough. We see images everywhere of what the holidays are supposed to look like – perfect families full of perfect holiday cheer. Yet our realities may look quite different after a death (heck, even before!) – someone important is missing, families may have been divided, traditions may have been lost, there may be financial strain, or pain and conflict where goodwill should live. Womp womp.
If you couldn’t tell, I am not in the best frame of mind right now. Thanksgiving grief is hanging over my head. In addition to the holidays looming, I have been stressed at work, I have been questioning my life direction on a pretty basic level, and feeling some generalized existential angst. Fear not, there is good news. There are things you can do (and I can do) to plan for and cope with the impending holidays to ease the pain. Lucky for you, in the weeks to come we are committed to sharing our tried and true strategies for coping with the holidays. Because as much as I have been denying that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, there are ways to shake the holiday dread. It has worked for me before and I have faith it can work again. Even better, I have been in this existential funk before and have come out the other side all the better for it.
I know the dread for the holidays can color the lens through which we see the world, keeping us fixated on the loss and pain above all else. I know I am looking through a gray, dingy lens these days and I have a strong feeling I am not alone. So today the plan is simple: gratitude. It only seems appropriate, with Thanksgiving around the corner, we work on changing our frame of mind by looking for the good. It may sound cheesy or hokey or whatever, but here is my promise to get my holiday season off to a better start: I will share one thing I am grateful for every day. From tomorrow until Thanksgiving I will probably spend some time overwhelmed by stress and generalized holiday gloom, but I commit to taking at least a few minutes every day to reflect on the things I am thankful for.
This isn’t huge, it isn’t crazy. It is downright attainable. And it works. We have an incredible ability to fixate on the negative (you can even read about our negative bias, from an evolutionary perspective). Breaking up all that negativity with positive thoughts about the people, places, and things we love can be a refreshing and much-needed shift in thinking. Looking for gratitude slows us down. Instead of rushing past the little things, it encourages us to take the time to appreciate and savor them. It helps us re-frame things for ourselves – looking at the positive, instead of the negative.
I know this can feel impossible when the negative feels like it is crushing you and when it is a battle to get out of bed. Luckily the interwebs are full of resources to inspire us to be grateful. We have shared Louie Schwartzberg before, but it seems impossible to talk about cultivating gratitude without sharing this video. This video always succeeds in making me feel totally self-involved and ungrateful. As someone who feels shame is a crucial motivational tool it seemed important that I re-watch and share it.
And leave it to the folks at soulpancake to prove to us why expressing our gratitude can actually increase our happiness.
Ready to start being grateful and shake just a little bit of this looming holiday funk?? I am going to find one thing I am grateful for each day and will share it on social media. I have coerced Eleanor to do the same. And I would encourage you to join the party! We will share a gratitude a day from tomorrow until Thanksgiving – 16 days of gratitude, here we come. You know the usual locations – share your gratitudes with us on facebook, twitter, google+, and Instagram — and use the hashtag #whatsyourgratitude.
Still not feeling a gratitude challenge? Download this gratitude journal app and get fired up about gratitude. Come one, what do you have to lose?
If you’re worried about the upcoming holidays, head over to our store and check out our resource ‘A Practical Guide for Grieving During the Holidays’.
Share the love! Comment. Subscribe. Follow us on social media to keep up with our daily gratitudes and to share your own.