The holidays can be fun and stressful all at once. Not everyone looks forward to them, and for some it’s their favorite time of year. Change was at the forefront of my last Christmas. Navigating a divorce, the passing of my sweet sister-in-law, a move to a different city—loss was everywhere. There were holes in our holiday family gatherings and traditions. It was a time of firsts.
The holidays represent joy to me. Giving, possibility, and magic. The world feels kinder, softer. I didn’t want to lose that.
My priority was my 14-year-old daughter and my 12-year-old son. They love this season, too. Would they be okay? What could I do to ease the stress? There was no getting around this being hard. As holiday break approached my plan was to communicate and allow space for our feelings. And somehow have fun, to enjoy the season and its wonder.
Our holidays were a mix of the old and new. We had wish lists, shopped for friends and family, rode the ‘bright nights’ train at the park, decorated our tree, spent time with loved ones—all things we had always done. We discovered a winter light display near our neighborhood and bought a new wreath for our new door. Since we now had to share Christmas, the kids and I decided to open presents on December 24th. The upside of divorce was that we could make Christmas last longer. That’s how I chose to see the beginning of a new tradition for our unit of three.
There was also a significant part of me that needed the holidays over and done with. Get through that first one because the firsts are the hardest. While the kids were with their dad I missed them and my sister-in-law. I missed our past family. Melancholy tugged at me. I was also dealing with a mouse issue in the attic and there is nothing cute about mice no matter how they are dressed up in cartoons. There was a lot going on, more than I wanted.
I got through that first. We all did. I had time to myself, ate a lot of chocolate, and watched the second season of ‘The Crown.’ A friend invited me over for wine and company. I was reminded that you can inhabit both joy and sorrow. It’s okay to be sad. The holidays can be lonely. And in the midst of grief it is possible to know happiness.
This season holds more change, but we continue to make our way, blending the old and new. Sometimes you have to strain to see past the chaos for the beauty of the season. Find it in the little things. Pay for the person behind us in a coffee drive-thru line. Delight in the twinkling lights against a black winter sky. Seek solace in a beloved book. One of my favorite things to do is to drive around, hot chocolate in hand, exclaiming over bedecked houses and people’s love of giant reindeer and Santas on their front lawn. We create our own magic and meaning.
Heidi Cave is an author, mother, and motivational speaker. She is devoted to coffee, family, books, TV, and all things lemon, not necessarily in that order, but feels that all of these things are vital to a fulfilling life. You can learn more about Heidi at heidicave.com. You will find her memoir Fancy Feet: Turning my Tragedy into Hope in bookstores and Amazon.