Are you a step family? A blended family? Or maybe this Christmas is the first one without a loved one. How do you get through the holiday season when these circumstances bring stress, struggle or sorrow?
You may remember past holidays, good and bad memories, people or relationships. These thoughts can bring about feelings of sadness, anger, or even nothingness. Your energy may be low and you just want it all to be over. These feelings and thoughts may lead to a belief that the holidays are going to be difficult.
At Family TLC we have seen the value of rituals and how they can make the holidays more than bearable. We help people create rituals which are a sequence of activities and repetitive behaviours that alleviate emotional distress and either prevent or neutralize anxiety.
Creating rituals is not easy, it might even be painful. However, the ritual will help. Remember, time does not heal; time just allows you to store the pain for another day. In order to heal you need to be intentional in your healing. This means to focus on the pain so you can release it and feel the positivity that is left behind.
How to create rituals that really help
Who needs to be involved? In a step family this will probably include children, you, your spouse, maybe even extended family. In a blended family you might want to consider the children’s other parent or extended family. In the case of a death you will consider the person who has passed away. Include everyone!
What have you done before? Talk about holiday traditions that people have enjoyed in the past. Remember it is okay to bring in activities that happened with someone who will not be joining you. Select the past behaviours and activities you want to incorporate into this new ritual.
New behaviours and activities are great. Discuss things that no one has done before that will become part of a new ritual. It is about creating something that honours all involved and generates a sense of comfort.
Keep it simple. Grieving is one of the most tiring things we do. And celebrating with new family members can be uncomfortable. These feelings of discomfort and grief, combined with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, may add up to everyone being exhausted. It is important that your rituals are relaxed and simple.
Flexibility is imperative. Yes, it is good to plan ahead and establish rituals but being human means you cannot predict everything. Sometimes emotions come in waves and interrupt the plans. That is okay, go with the flow and get back to the ritual when the wave has passed.
Express feelings. Do not let the feelings be the big elephant in the room where everyone feels them but no one talks about them. Fear prevents us from talking but fear holds us prisoner. The conversation does not have to be long; feelings can be expressed in a few words and they do not need to be fixed just heard.
For an idea on how to build a new ritual that comforts everyone, read the post Ghosts of Christmas Past for an example of how a family ritual helped a family whose loved one had passed away.