Know When to Say “When” (Especially during the Holidays).
Are you like me? As the holidays approach, even under good circumstances, you want to say “FUCK. IT ALL.” and crawl under the covers until January 2nd? Now, post-loss, there are definitely days where I actually do say “FUCK. IT. ALL.”
How can I do that, you ask? Because I’ve set boundaries – clear boundaries that work for me and the way I carry my grief.
Again, if you’re like me, and you’ve lost a loved one close to a holiday, near a birthday, anniversary or some previously celebrated day or date, then it is of the utmost importance to set very clear boundaries for yourself. (Some folks might also refer to this as part of “self-care”).
There are three qualities I think are imperative to being able to make it through (and possibly even enjoy) the holidays:
Honesty and bravery sort of go hand-in-hand. You see, you sometimes need to be brave in order to be truly honest (especially about tough topics, like grief). Give it a try: let’s say your neighbor asks you to join their holiday toast next Wednesday (personally, I don’t want to drink with my neighbors, but no judgment if that’s your jam).
Here’s what to do:
BE HONEST. If you think you’ll enjoy attending, say, “Sure. Sounds great.” But, if you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to say just that. “I’m not really sure.” Add, “can I let you know?” if that makes you feel better. Another option is to ask if it’s an open invitation. That way, you basically never have to decide! If you’re feeling up to it at the time, you can “drop by” without having an obligation.
But, get this: there’s one more option. I know, I know: mind-blowing, but you could also say, “No.” (“no thank you,” if you have any manners).
Can you fucking believe that? We can actually say “no” to things? Who knew? If it “makes you feel bad” (yes – it’s “bad” not “badly,” but I digress). If it makes you feel bad to outright decline an invitation, you’ve got something to work on! You can always practice by using phrases like “I hope you understand,” or “I haven’t shared with you how much I’ve been struggling lately…” or “Thanks, for the offer, but I might not feel up to it…” or “The holidays are so tough for me since losing my husband (son, friend, fur-baby…), I never know what I’ll be up for.”
Be honest. Be brave.
Now you can see how honesty sometimes has to be combined with bravery. Especially because so many of us (wink wink: women) don’t want to “hurt anyone’s feelings.” Believe me, everyone will benefit from your honesty. And, others will learn from you! Win. Win.
While honing these skills, be patient with yourself. If I’ve learned anything in the last two years (since losing my son, Conner) it’s that I have to be patient with myself and allow myself to “feel all the feels.” C’est la vie, oui? You must honor your emotions, and it takes patience to be able to do this.
So, here we are learning how to be grown-up grievers. Learning how to be honest and brave and learning how to set boundaries.
In order to set proper boundaries, you first need to define your boundaries. These will vary from person-to-person. For example, I am a very social person, and when I am feeling down, I have a great desire to be with my friends. In contrast, you may be more reclusive, and THAT’S OKAY. It’s important to know yourself in order to establish healthy boundaries and to know what's right for YOU.
It’s just like our holiday toast example: if you receive this invite and your gut says no fuckin’ way I’m doing that, but the words that come out of your mouth are, “Sure. That sounds great,” then Houston, we have a problem. You’ve got homework!
BE HONEST. BE BRAVE. BE PATIENT. Make sure the words match the feelings.
Let’s be honest (tee hee hee – see what I did there?), setting boundaries may not come easily to you, but I think you’re brave for being here right now!
Sending you So Much Love during these tough(er) times we call the holidays.