Well folks, it looks like we are here, once again, approaching the holidays. I definitely feel caught off guard, probably because the pandemic has altered my concept of time. Am I the only one? It seems like the last two years have flown by, and for most of it we’ve been hiding in the house while wearing masks and fervently washing our hands every five minutes. I also think that because of this confinement, we’ve rushed the start of the holidays, opting to begin decorating houses and putting up trees as early as October (come on people, let’s at least celebrate Halloween first)! I suspect this has occurred because we’re bored at home, and antsy for this virus to be over with. Our thought process has been that maybe if we rush the holidays, we can rush this pandemic too. Or, maybe if we focus on something “happy” we can distract ourselves from the onslaught of traumatic events that manifested one after the other, beginning with the sudden loss of basketball star Koby Bryant, his daughter, and seven others in a helicopter crash in early 2020.
I’ve never been very excited about the holidays, as they are super “family-oriented,” however, these last few years have been extra tender for me. Dealing with the loss of a loved one on a daily basis is it’s own journey, but especially around the holidays. I’m lucky (or blessed, however you want to view it) that I have a community of people who think I’m amazing, and love me dearly. But even with that, sometimes, I get lost in the sauce during this traditional family-time (and other times, but we will stay focused on the topic at hand). Meaning, I may find myself with no plans, or no person, to share plans with. Last Thanksgiving I received a last minute invite, but I had already had plans with a guy I was dating. Or so I thought. Said guy ended up being several hours late for the dinner I had taken hours to prepare. We made the best of it, but for most of the day, I found myself alone. It honestly just felt like another day, and I know this experience was common to many who were separated from their families due to the pandemic spreading so rapidly. Still, I wouldn’t be being honest if I said I was fine. I was emotional, and remember sharing those emotions with a dear friend who lives out of town. She got it. She understood, even though she had her own family to celebrate with.
I have other friends who do not have close families, and so we have been intentional to connect during these times, so that we have someone. For the last three Christmases, one of my besties and I have taken trips that have been phenomenal. There have been some sad moments of course, but the comfort of sharing these moments with someone who gets it, is invaluable. I understand that the road I am called to walk is definitely rocky, but there are several around me who are walking it with me, and that brings its own joy.
My encouragement for those of you navigating grief during the holidays is this: create a plan. Whatever it is that you need, whether it’s laughter, or a shoulder to cry on, or a fun time doing tick tock (feel free to check out mine on my social media, LOL), get it. More than likely, you are going to be more vulnerable than your normal self, even if you feel like you aren’t. If this is your first holiday after the loss of a loved one, you have no idea how you will respond. Make sure you are supported. Maybe you’re a mom of kiddos and will want some alone time, and if that is the case, then go for a short walk. Or sit in your car, and take deep breaths. Or scream your lungs out. Or call a good friend who understands your situation.
There are many reasons for us to grieve, and its not just the loss of a loved one. We can be grieving because people have been sick and dying the last two years from Covid-19. Or because we lost a friendship during a rough season, or all of our money, or experienced a miscarriage. There are so many ways to experience loss in this life, and the holidays can make us even more sensitive to our grief. Know that your experience of grief may not look like anyone else’s, even if you go through similar circumstances. We are all unique and grieve in different ways. But regardless of how you grieve, be honest about your feelings. Journal. Schedule a counseling appointment. Do self care, such as getting a massage, or a spa treatment.
I spent my very first Thanksgiving after my mom passed with dear friends and a guy I was dating. We had a “Friendsgiving”. It was the first time any of us had cooked for Thanksgiving, and I think we did a stellar job. It was then that we all realized, we were now the “grownups”. Wow.
I appreciate God’s provision for me during these times. He always provides in His own way and I can say that though the moments have been hard, He has dispensed immense grace to get through them.
If you have a family, I encourage you to invite others into your plans. I received an invite just days ago, and was so grateful to have it. I look forward to the day where I can be the inviter. Having lived single for the last 16 years has taught me the gift of family, and the opportunity to share that gift with others.
More recently, I was able to celebrate a friend who has mastered the gift of sharing her family (see pics below). She has been one of my closest friends for almost 20 years now. We have walked through so much together. From her first marriage, to our graduations, to the birth of her children, to her divorce, my books being published, our homes being bought, the death of loved ones, and so much more. We celebrated her new marriage on Thursday and it was a dream to see the smile her husband puts on her face after all of the tests and trials she has overcome to get there. She is one of the first to teach me that, sisterhood transcends bloodlines, and friends can also be family. I am blessed by people like her in my life who understand that God intended family to be a manifestation of heaven on earth. We are all connected. We are all related. We are all family.
Dear friend, however you choose to navigate this holiday season, my encouragement is to surround yourself with love. Love heals. Love strengthens. And love can comfort us in the perfect way that is tailor-made for each of us.
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Here is my friend and I celebrating her new marriage! Isn’t she stunning?