I miss my father more than ever. He died when I was just 10 years old.
He died around the holiday season making this time of the year difficult for my family and me.
After he passed, I took his cigar box from my mom and I have had it ever since. Its always had a spot in my home. It’s a piece of him that I hold dear. Whenever I want to connect with him, I find myself talking to the box. I put special things in the box, written wishes, and goals for the next year. It’s like talking to him.
Most times when I am talking to the box, I am also crying. I cry because I miss him. I am grieving him because I loved him. It has been difficult but I recognize that those tears come from my sadness that he is no longer with us.
Grief is a testament to love. Love is such a beautiful, complex yet simple, thing. I hate that I feel sad and miss my dad but I am so very glad I got to love him. I would not have it any other way. I would much rather have a love that turns into grief than to never have loved at all.
Other people, I have talked to have similar, yet different, ways of connecting with their loved ones who are no longer around. For some it is continuing on with a tradition, wearing a special outfit, looking at the stars, reading a card, attending a religious ceremony, wearing a piece of jewelry — whatever it is, however you choose to connect is personal and unique to your situation.
How do you choose to connect with your loved ones when they are no longer around?
The holidays can be a time for joy, happiness, appreciation but they can also trigger sadness, depression, and remind us of things we are missing. These feelings are so common they have a name — the Holiday Blues.
Around this time of the year, I frequently encounter clients who are struggling with loss in their family, financial issues, mental health, etc. They often ask me what they can do to get out of their funk. On top of therapy, medication, proper nutrition, and physical activity the main thing we need to do when we are struggling is to avoid isolation. When we are down and we isolate ourselves it escalates those negative feelings.
Turn negative into positive
Doing something nice for others by giving part of yourself helps to get people out of isolation and feel good when they see the joy of others. Through volunteering, cooking a meal, cleaning a house, or baking cookies for others in need you can help yourself while also helping others. When we see the joy of others achieved through our efforts it helps to lift us up and feel good about the way we are spending our days.
It is hard to get through the holiday season when you focus on all the things that have gone wrong throughout the year, or all the things that are missing. When you turn that negative energy into something positive it can help you get through this otherwise hard time more easily, and might also give you a reason to smile.
If you are wondering where to start, here are some websites to help:
National Coalition for the Homeless: https://nationalhomeless.org
Volunteer Match: https://www.volunteermatch.org
Create The Good: http://createthegood.org
Being a single mom is incredibly hard. It is doing it all, being everything for your children, and it is taxing on yourself. The reality is nobody actually decides “yes I want to be a single mom,” “yes, I want to do this by myself.” It is not a choice. It is something that comes as a result of another decision—whether it be getting divorced from your spouse, deciding not to marry the child’s father because of your relationship with him, or feeling like you have no other way to have children except to do it on your own. It is the absence of a partner but it is not a direct choice.
I was raised by my single mom. She had choices to not be a single mom. She could have chosen to stay in an unhappy relationship so that she didn’t have to care for me by herself. Instead I would hear her cry in the middle of the night because this gig is hard. But it was something she needed to do for us, for herself.
Of course she would have preferred to have someone to help split the parenting duties. Or course she wanted to give us a stable home. But she also wanted to show us that she wasn’t willing to give up on her ideals. That she was strong. That she wasn’t going to compromise her happiness to stay in an unhappy relationship. She was showing us to stand up for yourself and to follow your heart, as hard as it can be sometimes. She did make choices. Very difficult ones. But it was never about a desire to parent by herself.
Your friend calls and asks you if you are able to help work the table at the school fair next week. You think about it and despite the fact that you will have to rearrange your schedule, and squeeze this event between two others, thus leaving no time for you to make it to your weekly yoga class, you still say “yes.” A few days go by and you are dreading it. On the day of, you start to get really disappointed that you have to miss that yoga class, so you cancel on your friend. You tell your friend something came up, or you aren’t feeling too great, and you back out.
Reevaluate your boundaries
If situations like this are a common occurrence in your life, you may want to take a step back and reevaluate your boundaries.
You don’t always have to be a people-pleaser. It is ok to say “no.” It is ok to disappoint a friend or a family member by turning down a request. It is ok to set boundaries. Rather than always saying “yes” just to say “yes” and make everyone happy—while really hurting yourself— set boundaries from the beginning. You don’t need an excuse or a reason to say “no.” If you just don’t feel like it, then don’t do it. Saying “no” from the beginning will save time and stress for everyone later when you inevitably back out or are unhappy for participating.
While in your head you are disappointing those around you for not doing everything they ask, you are actually displaying strength and confidence. Your ability to understand your needs and to take the steps to set a boundary will most likely be respected by your friends or family. And, so what if it is not. You have to do what is best for you, and the people in your life will eventually understand. Plus, no one wants to be seen as a flake. Rather than always having that appearance, take the right steps from the beginning—and save yourself the stress. No one is perfect, and no one can do it all ALL the time.
If you are a parent, chances are you have witnessed the heart-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the ants-on-a-log snack, or butterfly-shaped apple slices. There is no doubt this stuff is cute and can probably make lunches a little more fun and exciting, but is it really worth it?
It is time-consuming and stressful enough to make sure your kids have sunscreen and bug spray applied, a hat, a bottle of water, and a lunch to eat. Do we really need to add the extra stress of making sure our kids’ food looks fun? I mean we want them to eat it, right? It doesn’t need to look cute for that to happen.
We don’t need to be so kid-centric
There is so much pressure on parents these days to go above and beyond, to be a “Pinterest parent.” The reality is we don’t need to be so kid-centric. Our kids are not going to grow up scarred because we did not make their sandwiches into hearts every day. They are not going to be missing out on anything because their apple slices look like apple slices. Rather, they would benefit more from a nice post-it note in their lunch box, an encouraging sentence, or just a simple “I love you.”
Instead of taking the extra time, and putting such immense pressure on ourselves to make everything “cute” and “fun,” take that time for you. Your children will benefit from a happy parent way more than a fun lunch. There is also no shame in allowing your children to purchase lunch at school or daycare so that you can have more quality time. That is the stuff that really matters. Cut yourself some slack, give yourself a break, take a deep breath and go give your kid a hug—that small gesture will go so much further than spending a half-hour trying to construct the perfect ants-on-a-log snack.