The holidays: Sweet & Salty
The other day I was walking in the early morning, watching the Eastern sky grow luminescent. The rising sun is the harbinger of something fresh and new. For me, the perfect day is watching the sunrise and the sunset. It brings me closer to nature, the world around me, and reminds me to be in the here and now.
But it also made me feel sad. Two years ago, during the holidays, my mother had a heart attack, that several months later, brought her to the end of her life. During the weeks that I spent by her side, I observed many Florida sunrises from her balcony. On those days, I watched the same sun rise and listened to green parrots greet the new day. But on each one of those mornings, I wondered if my mother would still be alive to see the sunset.
My mother was the glue that brought our entire extended family together for many years during the Christmas holidays. I miss her warmth and love.
For many of us, the holidays are both sweet and salty.
If we’ve had recent losses, like in my family, we’re acutely aware of the absence of these loved ones. We think about them at odd moments— when taking a walk, with the sweet smell of holiday cookies coming out of the oven, or on a cold, crisp day. Our hearts ache for them. Remembering their love and companionship brings a sweet, cozy feeling. But it also brings salty tears too.
We also remember family members who may have passed away years ago too. My brother died 35 years ago. The last time I saw him was during the Christmas holidays in 1980. I think about him often, but always when my family gathers. While his absence has become familiar to me, I miss him more as the years go by.
For many of us the holidays bring joy and sadness, sweetness and saltiness, warmth and pain.
How can we handle these contrasting emotions during this festive time of year?
- Accept your feelings. When a wave of grief arrives, simply allow it to have its way with you. Then let it go. Don’t push it away or suppress it. It’s helpful to just accept these feelings as part of the holidays. They are only part of your experience, not it’s entirety. Let them be and don’t judge them. They will come and go.
- Take some time to nurture yourself. Pamper yourself a little during the holiday season. Go for a walk, take a hot bath, listen to music, connect with old friends, or book a massage—whatever gives you comfort and solace.
- Talk about your loved ones. Because it can be painful to talk about close family that has passed away in recent years, relatives may not want to mention them. They are afraid that they will feel sad or spoil other’s enjoyment. This is time to celebrate our relationships, past and present. We want to keep their memory alive. We are still connected to them and their place in our history.
- Not all holidays are created equally. More recent losses may make this season sad, rather than cheerful. It’s a fact that some years the holidays will be happier than other years when life as its way with you. So be it.
How do you handle sad feelings during the holidays?