It’s Holly and Jolly. Mostly…



The whole over-emotional Holiday bit is a setup.

It’s when we feel the pressure (from who knows where) to be in the middle of a Hallmark Holiday Movie, where all broken relationships are healed, the dog with cancer has a miraculous recovery, the foreclosure on the house is forgiven, and all’s right with the world. Oh, and let’s not forget the perfectly decorated home.

We get to an age where we know, or parts of us know, that this is fiction. However, sometimes we still long for it. One of my all-time favorite movies is White Christmas. It all looks so perfect until we peel the onion and realize that the four main stars are without family (except the Haynes sisters), but they are free to train from Florida to Vermont to save the General’s snowless ski lodge. There’s obviously more to that story…

I am all for grabbing every single second of joy that we can. I decorate and love it. I sing Holiday music with gusto. I shop, wrap, give, and visit, and it makes me happy. I celebrate. I also grieve.

I’m on the grief train after the recent loss of a close family member (from Manchester). I now have friends on the train who relate to the experience of lovely and awful in the same sentence. The dichotomy of this reality is jarring but true for many of us during the Holiday Season.

Oh, what fun it is to ride in a horse grief open sleigh.

Even if your journey on the grief train is not now but was many Decembers ago, the good old memory bank may send you mental screenshots of your trip so that you get to relive it. How does this make me feel? Am I safe with these feelings? Am I in control of them, or do they control me? How much is this impacting those around me? Do I have the tools to manage this, or do I need help? Can I structure a safe time and place to give these feelings/memories the time they need so that they aren’t so intrusive?

The saturation of emotion and unattainable expectation that the commercial world puts on us at this time of year is a setup. I picture myself standing in a room with many beautifully wrapped packages covering the floor. Sometimes they aren’t what they seem. It’s knowing what to pick up and what to put down. It’s different for all of us, but what is the same is being aware.

Most of us can relate on some level.

We want our holiday experiences to meet our needs, boost us, and reintroduce us to joy. It’s all there waiting to be had, but there’s always more. It’s a sandwich. We have the marshmallow fluff on one side, simple, all clean and pretty, full of possibility, and then we have the peanut butter on the other, laden with an equal amount of complexity. Slap those two pieces of bread together, and presto, we have the perfect storm Holiday snack.

You may not be able to do much excavation on this topic, and you may want to “get through it” with minimal discomfort. It might be enough to acknowledge that every smiling face you see downtown, at a Holiday Fair, school play, church, temple, work party, or even at your own holiday table has their own sandwich. It might be well-wrapped in foil, a zip lock bag, or maybe even in Tupperware, but it’s likely there.

If we can acknowledge that the tough stuff rises to the top when we least want it to, that it throws us off from time to time, and that if we make some room for it in a safe place and time, we might be able to carve out some real joy and peace.

I might still be on the grief train by the time my Christmas holiday arrives, but I know the train will stop at a station for hot chocolate and gingerbread with whipped cream. I will leave my Kleenex box on the train, get off, and thoroughly enjoy my treats. Please join me. I’ll be the one with my hand in the marshmallow bag. Give joy a go, even if intermittently.

senior living, holiday, relationship