Oh Boy…Here Come the Holidays

by Nikki Mark

Brace yourselves – the holiday season is knocking on our doors, and it’s time for a mental and emotional pep talk!

I know that for many, the holidays are a joyous time of family, sweets, presents and play.   If you are one of these people, you are so fortunate, and I hope you soak up every second of it! 

I used to be one of you up until five years ago when the holidays as I knew them changed forever.

Now I’m part of another group of people for whom the holidays are more complicated.  Some of us have lost loved ones – making the holidays an extra-painful reminder of who is missing.

Others of us have complicated relationships with family members – or no family to be with at all – making the holiday season uncomfortable, stressful, and for some, even unbearable.   

No matter which holiday group we fall into and how blissful or challenging the holidays may be, they are also an amazing opportunity to learn, grow, and transform.

Like everything in life, the holidays are all about perspective.      

For example, the very first Thanksgiving after tragedy struck my family was beyond excruciating. “Thankful” wasn’t exactly how we felt.

However, that awful day also sparked a deeper level of compassion and empathy that I didn’t even know was hiding in me.  When multiple friends opened their holiday rituals to my family that year, the private and somewhat closed-off person that I was quickly learned to say YES and graciously receive their offers.  A compassionate community I didn’t know I had taught me that the holidays change lives when we are open and inclusive, and the more we develop these values and live them every day, the more the world reflects them back at us.   

There were times, however, when my family was left to spend certain holidays on our own.  That’s when I was forced to activate a deeper level creativity and resourcefulness to not only get through the day but also to transform everything we loved about the past into a future of new possibilities. 

The holidays would never be the same, that was clear, but I had the power to make them whatever I wanted them to be, and soon applied this logic to my very own self.  

As much as I’d like to rewind the clock and click back into what I recall being a glorious Hallmark-kind of holiday cheer, I can’t help but appreciate how much being in my new holiday group has taught me about life and how I want to participate in it. 

The holidays, it seems, can also be a barometer of how far we’ve come.

Last, but not least, the holidays are a great reminder that each one of us is a microcosm of our world, and how we navigate within our own families and communities often mirrors how well we navigate our own selves.

My dear friend Chris Carter put the holidays into more universal terms when she asked ten thoughtful and intelligent women during a Día de los Muertos gathering at my home last month (which is the ultimate “family” holiday when you think about it):

“If we can’t figure out how to get along with our own family,
how will we ever figure out how to get along as one country,
or one world?”

Oh the holidays…here they come.

Do you want to play?  Are you ready to grow?  Have you got something to heal?

Sometimes it’s a choice. Other times it’s a surprise.

Either way, the holidays will come and go for all of us, and let’s all remember that together…in whatever version of “together” you find or decide to create…we will make it through.

P.S. I’ve written the following resource below for anyone struggling with Grief During the Holidays – and for anyone who’d like to help someone else who is struggling. Please feel free to forward this on to anyone in need… and if you want to add any suggestions to it, I’d love that! Make sure to leave comments below.

6 thoughts on “Oh Boy…Here Come the Holidays”

  1. Thank you once again Nikki for sharing your story and journey. I just passed the 2-year mark of losing my son. I am very blessed with a small, very close circle of friends and immediate family who have been there for me even when I didn’t know I needed them. My sister and her family grieve his loss nearly as much as I do, and we have found ways to honor him, and feel his presence at every family event. Grieving is so very personal, yet we all share similar stories. I will share this with several other mothers I know who are walking our path. {{{HUGS}}}}

    • Hi Debby. I agree with you. It’s amazing how personal loss and grief can be, and yet so many of us move through it with the same basic essentials- like community. I will never understand how some people just know what to do and how to help during the worst of times, but I’m so thankful they do. Sending love to you and your family this holiday weekend…

  2. NIKKI, I really want to thank you for being in the right spot at the right time tonight so that I found you & your wonderful information. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving & for the first time in my life, I will be spending it alone. Yes, I have a family. It’s just not working out this year. It feels pretty weird but maybe I need to spend the day alone with my thoughts of thanks.And I need to rearrange. Never was much on turkey, anyway! Everyone enjoy your Thanksgiving.

  3. Hello Nikki,

    It has been very difficult for me. It will be 5 months on the 29th of Dec that I lost my husband. Facing these holidays have been excruciating painful. I have come to the realization that life goes on for us who continue to live. I like the following questions you had on your post.

    Do you want to play? Are you ready to grow? Have you got something to heal?

    I have put up a brave front to play at work, with family and friends although I am in pain.
    Am I ready to grow. Grow emotionally “no”. The pain hits me suddenly, almost paralyzes me with fear, guilt,and anxiety. Am I ready to grow-“no” days come as they go. I complete my duties, chores, my obligations. It has been replaced with forgetfulness, unorganized, anxiousness, and tiredness. What was easy and passionate is now difficult and passion less.
    Have I got something to heal? I found this question interesting of all. What is the “something?” Therapy, trying to join groups, widow village-pen pal with other widows. I am reaching out to find strength, the pain to end, and that I will be able to regain an inner peace. Do I have something to heal? I am trying to locate this “someting” to heal.

    • Hi Maritza, I so hear you. In fact, you’ve inspired me to write one of my next articles addressing some of your points. You are grieving, do not feel any pressure to play, to grow or to heal right now. None of that can happen, I don’t think, until you feel ready to make that choice and to have fully surrendered to your grief- no fronts- no worrying about what you should or should not do-no anxiety about what others think. Give me a few weeks to respond to a lot of your points in a full article. In the meanwhile, that “something” to heal is your aching heart. Your rational mind and the rational minds of others may try to pull you in one direction, but I have found that the heart keeps life simple and can be trusted. Allow your love for your husband to guide your next step forward, one at a time, day after day- this approach with my son was enough to hold be accountable to my own needs. More soon, I promise.


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