YIKES! How can it be fall already? And you know what that means… ready or not, here come
Some of us don’t look forward to the hectic holiday season. Especially if you’re grieving the death of a loved one or some other great loss.
You may feel like hiding, avoiding all the traditional gatherings and celebrations. Holidays can amplify our memories of happier times and intensify our longings. We focus on who will be absent. And, to protect ourselves, we isolate.
So right now, if this is you, I call, “Olly olly oxen free!!”
Here’s what I mean. Do you remember playing kick-the-can as a child? The seeker would close their eyes and count to 100. Then they called out, “Ready or not, here I come.” And at the end, when a player would storm the safe zone, she’d shout, “Olly olly oxen free!” – meaning all players were free to come out of hiding.
In effect, that’s what I’m saying for you. If you’re feeling the stress of the coming holidays, ready or not, then I’m giving you a pass. A get-out-of-jail free card (how’s that for muddling game metaphors?).
But self-care during the holidays isn’t a game. It’s important to give yourself time to grieve and heal from loss. Grief is complicated and unpredictable. Everyone processes differently. There’s no right or wrong way. And it’s okay.
In order to prepare for the holidays, let’s reframe our approach. You don’t have to accept either extreme: Isolate and hide versus do-it-all.
Instead, think of the holiday season as a river. Dip in when you want. Otherwise, let it flow by.
(That’s a fancy way of saying, “Pick and choose what to participate in.”)
First, think about what you love doing versus what’s expected.
Maybe you did it all in the past. Not this year. Do the things you love, that bring life-giving energy. Sending cards, going to concerts and parties, baking, crafting, shopping, family gatherings…
Imagine these activities are floating in the river. Reach in, select a few. Let the rest go by. Only
do the things that restore your soul.
Second, focus on relationships instead of events.
Especially the ones that bring joy and nurture you.
Third, keep it simple.
Gift giving is expensive – in money, time, and energy. Your finances might be different now. Agree with family to keep it simple. Instead of shopping for individuals, everyone agrees to just buy one gift. Then exchange gifts “white elephant” style. Agree ahead of time on a price limit and maybe a theme. Reduce cost and increase the fun.
Or, instead of gift-giving, share an experience together. Visit neighborhoods to view the light displays. Then share hot chocolate afterwards. Another possibility is to enjoy a simple evening together of puzzles, games, old movies, and warm soup.
Alternatively, you might spend time together serving others. Studies show that serving others reduces grief intensity. So, if you’re up for it, perhaps you could visit your local senior home. Volunteer to call bingo and lead a sing-along.
Finally, start new traditions.
Our loved one’s absence is often felt more keenly because of the associated memories of our traditions. So go ahead, acknowledge their absence. Share memories. And then be intentional in making new memories and traditions.
In short, give yourself permission to approach the holidays with freedom. You don’t need to hide. Nor must you meet every expectation. You’re grieving. You’re processing. And it’s okay.
I call, “Olly olly oxen free!”
Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,
**“Olly olly oxen free” – The origin of the phrase is unknown. The Dictionary of American Regional English says the phrase may be derived from all ye, all ye outs in free, all the outs in free, or possibly ”calling all the outs in free”; in other words, all who are out may come in without penalty.  Others speculate the phrase may be a corruption of a hypothetical and ungrammatical German phrase alle, alle, auch sind frei (all, all, also are free). 
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