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Tolerating Christmas

I tolerate Christmas.  I know that sounds kind of Grinchy, but while I love the music, lights, and shopping, I find parts of Christmas very stressful. 

This will be our 6th Christmas with an empty spot at the table.  Our son loved Christmas.  He made some of the mundane parts more fun. He loved opening gifts. His laughter filled the room. 

Not having him here has created a palpable void. 

While reflecting on his absence, I also remember that I'm so thankful I learned the power of skills. They have been so helpful in guiding my way through the intensity of grief, sadness and loss.

Skills like opposite action remind me that staying lost in the sadness is not helpful. I have other family members who bring joy in their way. So, I choose to step away from the sadness and feeling like hiding, and I reach out to connect with loved ones and friends and embrace their joy and happiness during the holidays.  It's not easy, and much better than isolating and disconnecting. 

My son would be so happy to see me smile.

I also use the skill of mindfulness to connect with myself and others. I set aside the distractions of devices and focus on what's important. I ask myself questions that take work to answer. I accept the feelings that are there.  No judgement. Just acceptance. Then, I let those feelings go. They don't define me. I am growing and learning. It is so liberating.

A final skill I found helpful is reflecting on positive memories. Setting up the tree and decorating was always a fun family event. For the first few years, I didn't want to do anything.  It was too painful. Then, I decided to focus on the positive memories. It helped so much. Since then, I have created new positive memories with my friends and loved ones. Not to replace the past but to connect with it. 

Christmas will never be the same, and that's ok. 

Using skills has helped me find a new path, and I'm ok with it. Will I ever love Christmas? Maybe one day, but tolerating it is the best I can do right now, and I'm ok with that.

How about you? Are you a tolerator of Christmas?
Do you know someone who is?

The best gift you can give yourself AND them is to give them grace during this time.  Invite them to events, but don’t be offended when they say no. Check-in with them, but don’t be offended when they don’t reply. Give the best gift of compassionate curiosity. No fixing. No expectations. Just offer your presence and patience. Be skillful with yourself and them. Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year, and maybe it’s not right now. 

Learning skills can create space to help you find your way and to help others find theirs.

The SILA Skills Group is one of the only resources that teaches skills to service-oriented organizations. We work with educators through Transforming Classrooms and other groups like first-responders, physiotherapists, social workers, and more through Transforming Connections. Learn more about how skills can help you in your personal and work life at

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