Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of the year. I love the aspects of Christmas that go beyond the commercialism that makes people frustrated and stressed out about what Christmastime has become. I love the magic of it all. I love the gift buying, wrapping, and giving because I love to see the faces of my family and friends when they open the thing that I picked out or made for them that I thought would be perfect. I love the tradition and the togetherness because my family and friends are the most important people to me, and I love sharing my favorite time with my favorite people. I love honoring my loved ones that have passed away in the decorations I adorn my home and tree with and the food that I cook and serve to the people that I still have in my life. I love watching and re-watching the same movies, year after year, remembering times snuggled on the couch as a child watching those same movies with my parents and sister growing up. I love listening to Christmas music because its something that roots me in the magic, and each song captures the excitement of the season so perfectly.
In saying all of that, I am going to start this by stating that during this Christmas week in this year, I am not okay. Even as I write this, I can feel the emotions building up in my throat, and some tears beginning to well in my eyes. I am sharing this because I want everyone to know that they are not alone if they too, like me, are not okay right now in this Christmas season. I am still so thankful that in 2020 and all that this year has taken away, I have been able to continue to do the work I do and find joy and peace in holding for others that which they cannot fully hold for themselves. As therapists and caretakers, this year has been like no other for us in that we have had the experience of providing support through a collective traumatic experience that is affecting us in the same way and at the same time as our clients are facing it too. While we may work through experiences and struggles with clients that mirror some of our own histories, never before have we been living through it all at the same time in the same way we are this year. I know that throughout the past 9 months, I have talked a lot about it being okay to not be okay, and right now, this is no different. It is also important for anyone that is a caretaker, a helper, a shoulder to lean on, or therapist too that it is important to recognize your limits, you needs, and find your person to lean on too.
For the past few weeks, I have sat in sessions with my clients processing through their very complicated emotions about the holidays this year. The emotions are what they are because this year is so complicated. I, along with my clients, am struggling with the decision making of who it is safe to see. So many of my clients, friends, and family are facing tough decisions and even tougher conversations about what the holidays are going to look like this year including if they will travel to see their family, who they will see, what they will do, and how to make sure everyone remains safe and healthy. There is the worry about seeing people and putting them at risk, but also the worry about not seeing people, worried that this may be the last Christmas with their loved ones as well. Everything and every decision have become so polarizing throughout this whole year and it feels like making decisions about what to do for Christmas is the culmination of all of the pain, all of the disagreements, and all of the turmoil that 2020 has thrown at us. Some families are so split about how they view the right way to approach COVID, and many people are worried about how these divisions may leave lasting scars on their relationships even once the pandemic is over.
Others are struggling with how to carry holiday traditions into 2020 when it feels like it is impossible to do so. So many of us are struggling with how to feel like our hearts are in the season, when it feels like they are so broken by all that has been lost, taken away, and rocked by the suffering and reality that this year has brought us. For so many of us, traditions – many of which have been passed on from generation to generation – are ways that we honor our loved ones and bring us joy season after season. This year, it feels like those traditions are one more thing added to the list of losses that 2020 has given us and is affecting our ability to focus on that which we still have.
While many of us are struggling with what the holidays will look like without the big celebrations that we are used to, I have also sat with clients who have lost loved ones to COVID over the past 9 months and who are still grieving the immense loss and lack of closure that they cannot even fathom facing what a Christmas celebration would mean, especially with their loved ones missing on that day. With my clients that are in the medical field I have processed through what being on the front lines of COVID treatment means for their holiday season. They have explored their emotions about how they cannot see any of their family or friends because of their exposure to the virus putting anyone they come in contact with at risk and the deep layers of loneliness that they are feeling because of this.
Unfortunately, there is really no “right” therapy response to this all. There is no magic therapeutic wand to reduce the pain or anxiety, because so much of what we are feeling is rational, understandable, reasonable, and based on the real human experience of 2020. So many of my clients always say they want to feel “normal” and for once, I can say that there is such a thing as being normal and having so many mixed and complicated emotions is what is normal. While I cannot speak for all of the therapists out there, I can guess that many of us feel the same way – we are here for you, we are feeling it with you, and we promise to keep supporting you in the best way we can. Allow yourself to feel all of the heavy feelings that you are feeling, but also feel hopeful that as we continue to lean on the medical world that has brought us a promising vaccine, that soon we can find our way out of this all and back to one another in the New Year.
I have been practicing therapy for 15 years and have worked with countless individuals, families and couples. While I do not want to claim to be an "expert" on all things therapy or life (because I always believe that there is room to grow and learn) I have noticed throughout my time connecting with my clients that similar struggles and repetitive patterns present themselves that affect how clients experience and see life. I wanted to take this experience with my clients and the knowledge I have gained and share it here, so that maybe it can touch others lives the way it has helped my clients.