6 Ways to Find Holiday Joy When You Miss Someone
by Madison Sorrentino
The holidays can be such a joyful season of quality time with loved ones, creating meaningful memories and building beautiful, long-lasting traditions. But in all our lives, we will inevitably experience a holiday season that falls short of that merry expectation. Whatever holiday traditions you follow, there’s a big emphasis on spending time with the people you love. And if you’re missing someone you love during this time, it can feel like you’re out in the wintry cold, staring into the warm, cozy window of everyone else’s lives.
I’ve been married to my wonderful husband for over seven years. He serves in the military and we have spent more holidays apart than we’ve spent together. I’ve learned how important it is to build some personal practices to foster joy around this time, take care of yourself and build the hearth around your own heart. If you find yourself missing someone during this season, here are six tips from my heart to yours.
1. Create one private holiday tradition that is just your own and involves no one else.
There’s no shortage of fun holiday traditions you can take part in with friends and family. But for every special occasion, I always like to have one solo tradition that I create just for myself. It helps me spend quality time with myself ( #selfcare) but it also empowers me. Having my personal traditions means that no matter what, there’s at least one special part of each holiday that I can still enjoy, even if I’m in a different part of the world or my husband is deployed.
Every New Years Eve I take one hour by myself to write a letter to myself. I tell myself what has been great about the past year, what I want to let go of, and what I hope for the year ahead. I’ve been doing this for over ten years and looking back over those reflections every year, gives me a lot of joy. Around Christmas, I have a tradition where I make hot cocoa and take a walk to look at Christmas lights by myself. I’ve done this in the wintry tundra of New York City, the heat of LA, and even the countryside of Sicily.
Ask yourself what you’d really love to do around this time of year and do it with just yourself, for yourself. Build one holiday tradition that you can enjoy no matter where you are or who is around.
2. Reach out to others who may be going through a similar experience.
During my first few years as a military wife and going through my first deployment, it was hard to confide in and connect with other people. I soon found an online community of other military wives and met some amazing women who could all relate to what I was going through.
Finding others who can relate directly to your experience in a judgement-free zone can help you process what you’re feeling and find connection. If finding an online support group feels particularly daunting, this article http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/find-support-groups has some helpful links with recommended support group resources.
And if finding others who have been in your shoes before seems impossible, consider finding a counselor or a therapist to talk to. They may not have had the same experiences, but finding that space where you can be yourself, open up and share what you’re going through is so healthy and incredibly valuable, especially this time of year. Here’s a great article from Jezebel on how to find a therapist: https://jezebel.com/5703322/how-to-find-a-therapist
3. Get out and get moving.
When I’m away from my husband (which is a lot) one of the things I have found most helpful in avoiding “fits of the sullens” is getting my body warm and moving. This becomes especially true in winter when I’m so inclined to curl up with a blanket and a good book for about three months straight. To get out of this rut, I attend a dance class, weight lift or even book a spot at my favorite yoga class (wink wink).
Get yourself out into the world, breathe fresh air, move your body and interact with other people. This may be something you have a lot of resistance to if you’re feeling down or missing someone, but it’s balm for the soul, I promise.
4. Spend time with others who also love that person.
I spent my first Christmas away from my husband with a circle of close family friends. We were all missing him and after a few glasses of wine, the stories of funny Christmas memories of years past came flooding in and I got to hear about a whole other side of the person I love. In a way, we got to celebrate him while we were celebrating the holiday. Spend time with the people who also love and miss the person you are missing. Take the opportunity to celebrate them together. Share funny stories, enjoy a food they love, and make a toast in their name. It’s a beautiful way to include someone in the holiday festivities, even if they aren’t there physically.
5. Don’t just smile—let the feelings flow.
It can be tempting to try and put up a front for others during this time if you’re feeling down. Don’t worry about putting a damper on the party if you’re feeling sad. And don’t try to block out your feelings. Denying your feelings only serves to bottle up emotions. Let yourself cry, beat a pillow, confide in others and give yourself permission to feel all the feelings. It’s better to dive into a wave of emotion than fight the current.
6. Play Santa
One thing I always love about the holidays is being a Santa for others. When I was younger, my mother would take me to our favorite diner around Christmas and I would scope out a family whose meal I wanted to pay for. We would hail their waitress, take care of their bill and write a note to them from Santa. It’s one of my favorite holiday memories of all time.
Finding ways to give to others just makes us feel good. And when we feel particularly down about our own situations, doing something to improve the lives of others, really does have a miraculous impact on our own mood and outlook.Consider volunteering, buy a gift for a child in need or find a family to secretly gift a meal to at your favorite diner. No matter what, you’ll feel warmer and fuzzier afterwards.
If you’re missing someone this time of year, just know that you’re not alone and that you are loved. I’m sending out a virtual hug to anyone who need it. And remember that your best is more than good enough while you’re getting through.