Missing home and loved ones: A guide for overcoming the holiday blues

Riana Braselman

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For many, the holiday season is a time for people to come together with their loved ones and celebrate for many different reasons. No matter what you celebrate, the holiday season may be a very joyful time, but for some, it is a difficult time. While a very popular sentiment is that December is the most wonderful time of the year, for some, it may be a dreaded time due to being separated from family or grieving the loss of a loved one. With this in mind, here is a make-shift guide on beating those holiday blues.

They say there’s no place like home for the holidays. However, on campus, we have many students who may be unable to go home for the holidays, so for you guys unable to celebrate the season with your family, here are some suggestions. If you have the time, give back to the Hammond community. Volunteer at soup kitchens, donate to food pantries and so forth. Help others enjoy the holiday season right where you’re at. If anything at all, don’t let the festive nature of the holiday season pass you by. It will be nearly impossible to avoid the Christmas lights, jingle bells, cookies and holiday music playing in the stores, so let’s embrace it. If there are traditions you will be missing with your family back at home, do them right here in Hammond. If not that, make your own traditions. Deck the halls, put up a tree, menorah or anything reminiscent of how you celebrate the holidays. Make holiday treats. If you can, gather friends around and build your own community here. The more the merrier as they say. If you guys celebrate different ways, share those traditions with each other. It will certainly make for a holiday season to remember for years to come. 

The holiday season can also be a yearly reminder of those who used to spend the season with us but have passed away. I want to speak on two separate topics in this regard. First, I’d like to address if you have lost a loved one and are dreading the oncoming season, I am sorry about your loss. I lost my mother the day after Christmas four years ago, and here is what I’ve learned from the last few Christmas seasons. While I can’t say it won’t be painful, my advice is first to allow yourself to feel sad. It’s OK to miss those who are no longer with you. It may also be good to allow yourself to recall your favorite holiday memories with them. I’ve had a counselor recommend putting out a picture of my mom as we participate in our own Christmas traditions to keep her memory in the Christmas activities, and I know that helps for me. 

I’d also like to help individuals who maybe haven’t lost someone themselves but have friends or close co-workers who may be having a tough time during the holiday season due to a past loss. You may want to approach them and show them that you care, but you may just feel unsure how to do so. As someone who has lost someone close to me, here is some advice I have on how to ease the holiday blues for your friends (and this goes for anytime of year, not just December.) Refrain from saying sentiments like “I know how you feel” or “They’re in a better place” and so forth. While they may be said with good intentions, it typically does not bring as much consolation as intended on the receiving side. Instead, try to find ways to validate and acknowledge the tough realities for them and yourself. For example, maybe express that simply you are sorry for their loss, that you wish you had the right words to say but just don’t know, or “I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help you.” If you know the person and the one they have lost, maybe share your favorite memory of that person with the bereaving friend, or sometimes your care can be shown just as simply as listening or being with them. As much as you may want to “fix” their situation, the simple reality is you can’t, so just remember to be supportive. Don’t set your friend on a grieving timeline. Be patient and just be present with them.

It can be hard to get into the spirit of the season when you’re away from home or when the holiday is a sad reminder of those who have passed away. I hope some of the advice and suggestions are able to help some of you tackle those holiday blues. I know I personally dread it every time it comes around, but “Christmas comes but once a year.” Despite the inner Grinch and Scrooge that comes out in me every year, I try not to let them get in the way of me showing my love and care towards my community, family and friends in a special way during the holiday season. So, have yourself a merry little whatever you celebrate and have a happy new year.

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