I had a meltdown yesterday and it is only December 2! After an intense session with my analyst, I returned home, ate lunch, and felt exhausted. I took a 2 1/2 hour nap with my cats and woke up feeling tired. Then I spotted the familiar red wrapped boxes in my kitchen. The day before I bought several boxes of See’s candy to give to various people. I didn’t think twice – I ripped open one of the boxes and proceeded to eat 7 pieces of candy. I then made coffee and was able to work for a few hours from the mixture of sugar and caffeine. I felt no guilt. So what was the emotional trigger? I confronted yet again the reality that I miss Roy and our holiday traditions and I am not in a serious love relationship yet (by my own choice). I feel alone.
Last week I decorated my place with our decorations, as well as those of my mother’s that I have. Now she and Roy are both dead – just writing that four letter word “dead” feels sad and heavy. I started playing holiday music on Thanksgiving eve – an annual tradition I started with Roy several years ago. The tradition was a fun and humorous point of contention between us because Roy didn’t really like listening to holiday music all day, every day, for 30 days. So now when I hear the music I reflect on how much I miss his sarcasm about the music and yet, I still love listening to it. I am grateful that I can listen to it again and that I decorated for the holidays.
Three years after Roy’s death, the holidays still warrant critical focus on physical, emotional and spiritual self care. So what am I doing? I have my five day per week exercise routine that I stick to, I eat sensibly and allow for holiday cheer in moderation (the other boxes of See’s candy will be delivered tomorrow and I put the one I attacked in the garbage this morning), I see my analyst, I journal, I work on my projects, I pray as I look at the ocean each morning, I help others by giving my time to charities I support, and I am making plans with friends and family for fun outings between now and January 1, 2015. I am creating balance in my days. I have carved out time for quiet reflection, as well as dates to be with people I love and feel at home with. This is critical for those of us who have endured the loss of loved ones. I don’t believe it is healthy to spend a great deal of time alone or to be so overextended with activities that we are tired and disconnected from our core self. Balance is the name of the game.
As a mental health practitioner and a widow of 3+ years, I know that holidays are particularly hard for those who are grieving. If grief is new to you, then your capacity to plan activities might be hindered – let someone help you plan what you will do or have someone stay with you. The late French author Romain Rolland says: “Be reverent, before the dawning day. Do not think of what will be in a year, or in ten years. Just think of today.” So whether grief is new or familiar, take good care of you right now. Cry, sob, rest, pray, eat, and love – that is enough for this holiday season.