By Lisa Manterfield
Imagine you have a good friend who experiences a death in the family right before the holidays. She’s dealing with funeral arrangements and in among the holiday cards that people sent before they got the news are sympathy cards and notes of condolence. She has her loved one’s belongings to go through and her mind is anywhere but on the holidays. She is mourning and there is little or no room in her grief for festivities.
You understand this and so you forgive your friend when she doesn’t send a card or a gift this year. You don’t expect her to attend the annual get-together you usually have with your group of friends. Instead, you check in on her to make sure she’s okay and you let her know that you’re there for her if she needs anything. You both know next year will be different, that she’ll be back celebrating with you, even though this will always be a difficult time of year for her.
If you’re in the earliest stages of your journey, where perhaps your latest round of IVF has failed or you’ve just come to the realization that children aren’t going to be part of your plan, you’re also grieving a great loss. The difference is, most people around you aren’t going to understand why you aren’t in the holiday spirit and they’re going to expect you to attend events, show up with gifts, and contribute to the merriment. They probably won’t make the same concessions you would make for your friend, so it’s up to you to treat yourself as kindly as you would treat her.
If this year feels too difficult for you, consider taking the year off.
Seriously, what would happen if you didn’t send out cards this year? What would happen if you mailed gift certificates instead of subjecting yourself to the mall and all its triggering festivities to shop for gifts? Do you have to decorate? Can you make excuses for parties you don’t want to attend? Could you even take a year off from whatever family obligations you might have?
It’s just one year. Will the people you love disown you? Some might be upset and yes, there’ll be that relative or friend who’ll never let you not forget, but odds are, most will forgive and forget.
We often try so hard to be there for other people, to meet their expectations and give them the holiday experience they want. But maybe this year you could give yourself what you need instead.