“It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”

By Natalie R. Toney M.F.A.,C.H.

“There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays”, “Joy to the World”, “Winter Wonderland”…
we’re all familiar with the carols of the season. They often begin pouring over speakers in department stores just after Halloween, and carry us through ‘til New Years. Songs of twinkling lights, sparkling snow, dancing sugar plums, snowmen coming to life if only to marry you and your true love. Even car commercials can be mistaken for 30 second Hallmark shorts, while the channels run film marathons long enough to turn any grinch into a true believer of the magic of Christmas.

For years, I embraced it all with wonderment, enthusiasm, and diligence. Hours picking out, or trying to make the “perfect” gifts, baking dozens of kinds of dozens of cookies, decorating every inch of the house, while fretting over being able to attend every event, and still send cards on time… and is there really such a thing as too big a tree? No, of course not. More tree, more ornaments, more lights, more magical!

Until one recent year, while shopping for household supplies, and probably towels or whatnot, I happened upon the Christmas section nearby, Trees, wreaths, lights, decorations, strategically arranged across from toys and games, amidst a cacophony of mechanical holiday music clattering. As I began to maneuver down an aisle with dazzling ornaments, palpitations halted me to almost a full-blown silent panic. Stood there with my knuckles grasped around the cart handle, trying to fend off dizziness, wanting nothing more than to leave. Remove myself from every sight, sound, candy and candle scent that was reminiscent of Christmas. All I could do instead was wait it out. I took a few deep breaths, grounded myself by placing my forefinger and thumb on my Celtic pendant, and focused my gaze momentarily on my “lucky” number that I spotted on a placard. After collecting myself, I made my way out of the aisle, though the checkout, into my car, where I promptly broke into tears.

That evening, it profoundly occurred to me that Christmas, and all the holidays in general, would be starkly different. My parents had passed, grandmother in a home a distance away, little family I did have, wasn’t near. I felt alone, lost and slightly adrift.

Grief comes in many forms, due to a variety of reasons. There is no timeline, it is not linear, and different for everyone. It’s okay to feel the array of emotions that arise and incorporating additional self-care to navigate through is a must, which varies individually. I’ve sought professional support, found respite through friends, solace in solitude, and helped others along the way. All have given strength while I create new traditions at my own comfortable pace, honoring myself as I cherish the memories of loved ones held dear.