by Angela Kuhns, MA, LPC
As the days grow shorter, the New Year approaches, and we find ourselves in the middle of the holidays many of us are experiencing the emotional toll of what is and what isn’t. The reality of global crisis, personal and collective losses, loneliness, challenging family dynamics, and everyday stressors have a way of intensifying this time of year against the backdrop of Hallmark movies, Instagram posts, unrelenting marketing campaigns, and the family we once had or wish we had. There is often a stark contrast between the ideals and our actual experience. For many of us the holiday season acts as a spotlight on what and who is missing… our grief. Often, we are also experiencing a lull in energy, if not because of, at least amidst growing demands and pressures related to the holidays.
I am not a positive spin kind of person so you’re not going to get that here. Nor do I think we are meant for the void, at least not long term. What I hope for you this season is to use the reality of what is in ways that serve you, connect to what’s important to you, remember your belonging, and embrace being fully human.
It is possible to use the holiday spotlight as a tool. We can use it to identify what is hurting and thus turn towards the place calling out for our attention and care. We can engage this place and the corresponding emotions with compassion. I know this can be hard for many of us to practice with ourselves, so it might be helpful to imagine what you would do for a beloved pet or a friend.
Keep in mind we can create our own spotlight with our attention and focus. What we focus on will grow. It is okay to redirect the light in ways that serve us and provide comfort.
We can reexamine the “should”s. We can investigate the traditions we participate in and what expectations we hold ourselves to. We can become curious about our values and what is actually important to us. We might create new traditions, practices, or even holidays that align with our values and that we find life giving.
We can connect to our belonging. Loneliness, rejection, the loss of or never experiencing being sheltered by our people is the greatest grief the holiday season highlights. Connecting to belonging and forming new relationships will not make grief or losses experienced any less. What it does do is allow us to experience connection and love in the now. Search out people who are willing to invest in relationship and practice healthy relational skills. (Notice I didn’t say chase or make any attempt to change anyone). People are messy, it takes hard work by all involved, and time to build intimacy. Remember too that there is the natural world, animals, the spiritual, and the interconnectedness of all living beings that we can draw upon.
We can practice connecting to being fully human. We contain multitudes and yet so often our thinking locks us into either/or and very restricted versions of understanding. We can embody our wholeness and use the practice of both/and. We can feel pain, joy, grief, gratitude, anger, hope, emptiness, love… knowing it all of it belongs. Each experience, each feeling contains the opportunity to connect us to wholeness and compassion more fully.
As the holidays cast a spotlight onto all the cracks and we feel the cold drafts, may we engage with compassion and allow its warmth to hold us, all that is, and all that isn’t.
JENNIFER EULBERG, MA, LPC
Welcome Jennifer, our new blogger!
Jennifer is a counselor at Sandhill who specializes in depression, self-esteem, and grief & loss. Get to know Jennifer as she shares her perspectives on life, contemplates value themes, and offers gentle encouragement.
THANK YOU to Stefanie Pisarkiewicz, LPC for her blog contributions from November 2014 - February 2019!