Posted by: silverliningsblog | December 23, 2019

When Christmas isn’t what you thought it would be…

According to Hallmark movies and ads on TV, Christmas is supposed to be a time of festive merriment, of gifts wrapped in pretty paper, and of celebrating with loved ones.

But what if that’s not how Christmas is turning out for you this year?

I know I’ve had a number of Christmases in the past few decades that haven’t exactly been idyllic… where if I’m telling the truth I was sad, lonely and disappointed. There was the Christmas when my husband Blair was dying, and then my first Christmas without him. Then there was the one after my ex-husband and I split up. And the one after my mom died. And the many in between where I was alone with my kids, without a partner to share the joys and responsibilities of Christmas with.

If this is a good Christmas for you this year, wonderful! Celebrate and enjoy and soak up the love and laughter. Life is precious and we never know how long we get to enjoy our loved ones for.

But if it’s not, don’t feel ashamed to admit it. Don’t feel you have to pretend to be happy when you’re not. It’s ok to allow yourself to feel your real feelings…in fact, that is the best way to heal and get to a place where you’re starting to feel a bit better (not by shaming yourself for not feeling otherwise).

Christmas can be really hard when you’re grieving the loss of a loved one…whether through death, divorce or break-up, or because your loved ones are far away and you can’t be with them. It can be hard when your life doesn’t look the way you thought it would…like when your family is broken in two and you only get your kids for part of the holidays. Or when your health is poor and you’re struggling just to get out of bed.

It can be hard to go through the motions and business of preparing for a holiday that part of you just doesn’t feel like celebrating this year. And it’s ok to feel the way you feel. It’s normal. You’re human. Life doesn’t always play out like a Hollywood movie. And grief and disappointment are tough emotions to handle (and ones we don’t often want to admit or talk about).

So cut yourself some slack if this Christmas isn’t all candy canes and ribbons for you.

Feeling the feels

The path out of pain begins with admitting the truth to yourself, and letting yourself simply sit with your feelings. It can be really helpful to journal about how you feel, or talk to a supportive friend (one who will validate you and not try to talk you out of your feelings).

For me this year, Christmas isn’t exactly what I hoped it would be. I thought I would have a partner to share Christmas with, but things didn’t work out with my dating efforts this year. I thought my father and my brother and his family were going to come join me for Christmas, but they aren’t able to make it. So once again this year, it’s just me and my kids. And while I am very grateful I get to have my kids for a good chunk of the holidays, it’s not the same as the big, boisterous family gatherings I was used to growing up, that I find I still long for.

I’ve also been struggling with an injured knee, chronic pain in my shoulder, and an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion due to the busy pace of my life. So instead of telling myself I “should” be feeling more joyful, I’m allowing myself to admit I feel tired and a bit blue heading into the holidays, and that that’s ok. I’m just fine the way I am.

And so are you.

When you’re wanting to feel better

Once you’ve allowed yourself to process and feel your emotions, you may feel a bit of relief (because you’re no longer resisting how you feel). You may want to continue just feeling what you’re feeling, or you may want to start feeling better.

Having gone through quite a few holidays at this point that weren’t what I wanted them to be, I’ve come up with a simple process for feeling better. That process is:

  1. Feel your real feelings
  2. Decide what you’d like to feel instead
  3. Think of ways you can create the feeling you want to have

We’ve already talked about step one. Step two is simply asking yourself how you’d prefer to feel…for me this year, it’s rested, relaxed, connected and joyful.

Then step three is brainstorming ways you can create that feeling…not by changing what has already happened (i.e. you can’t bring someone back who is gone), but by doing what you can in your current reality to make things as good as they can be.

For example, I’ve been very wiped lately with the demands of my business and life, so I’m taking several days off work where I’ll be offline and just resting and enjoying my kids. I’ve even booked two full days off just for me, where I’ll be in my PJs resting, relaxing, and reading the books I rarely have a chance to read.

And on the days I have my kids, we talked about what we most wanted to do for fun this year, and so we’re going to go downhill skiing, skate the woodland Lac des Loups trail in Quebec, watch the new Jumanji movie, and play board games while eating appetizers on Christmas Eve.

I’ll also reach out to some friends so I feel more connected…I’ve already thrown a Christmas party for friends, and I’ll be attending a potluck PJ party with some lovely ladies, having a friend over for Christmas dinner, and catching up with other friends either in person or on the phone. And my kids and I will make our usual donations to share what we have with others less fortunate than we are.

So while it won’t be the Christmas I originally imagined for this year, it will still be a good one none-the-less. And not because I shamed myself into feeling differently, but because I gave myself permission to admit how I really felt and then took action to make the best of the situation I’m in.

I really thought I’d be celebrating with my partner and extended family this year. And so I still feel a bit sad about that. But it’s also occurred to me that having my kids to myself this year is a blessing, as there may only be a few more years before they have partners and jobs and are off to university. So some quality time just focused on them (which will also be more quiet and give me more time to recharge my batteries) may actually be what I needed all along.

If you are struggling this year, know that you’re not alone. It’s ok to admit you feel sad and lonely and frustrated. It’s ok if you just want to hang out by yourself and not celebrate Christmas. And it’s ok to reach out for help and support and company if you want it.

Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect or Hallmark-worthy to be good. Just ask yourself what you truly want it to be, and do your best with what you have to create something you’d enjoy.

I’m sending lots of love your way, and wishing that peace and joy find you this holiday season.

Resources

About the author

Karen Strang Allen

Karen Strang Allen is a love and empowerment coach for single women. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great about who they are and create a life they love so they attract (and keep) their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources and workshops at www.karenstrangallen.com.


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