This time of year can be tough.
Sure, during the holiday season there is merriment and love and generosity in abundance. But our surroundings can get a bit “shiny” and if you’re not filled with holiday spirit, this month can be isolating or downright depressing.
At the very least, if you’re a LION, it can be helpful to do a little self-check as we enter this busy time of year. Pause, breathe, reflect. Like "stop, drop and roll" from fire safety lessons in kindergarten, but for your emotional wellbeing. Surviving trauma, illness, injury, etc. (what we call a “like it or not” situation), whether personally or through someone close to you, changes a lot in life.
Yet somehow it’s easy to be caught off guard by how your experience of the holidays can shift in the rebuilding. The holidays are already a time entrenched in tradition, stress, love, drama, joy-- or some combination of those.
Personally, I celebrate Christmas and enjoy it all, the traditions and music and cozy. But this will be the first Christmas with my family since Emily’s stroke in January 2016. (Last year we were with my wonderful in-laws out of state.) The memories of Christmas 2015, just days before her stroke, are both treasured and really painful. How naive we all were then! How blissfully unaware!
Considering all that the past two years have held for Emily, it's incredible that she'll join the festivities this year. And her perseverance in recovery will allow her to do much more than she could have a year ago. Together we’ll honor some of our old family traditions, like eating sushi on Christmas Day, and probably try some new things, especially since I now bring a two year old to the party. I’m really looking forward to it! And yet.
And yet the memories of Christmas two years ago and what has transpired since are haunting. The anniversary of Emily’s stroke is a week after Christmas. As many survivors and supporters understand, that date will probably loom over Christmas to varying degrees for many years to come.
While not discounting for an instant the amazing victories and challenges overcome by Emily and the rest of my family, we will also remember a not-too-distant past that now seems like a different life. (This is most true for Ems!) The tension of holding these realities simultaneously is astoundingly difficult. And to be honest, it's an experience unique to the holiday season.
(Photo from Christmas 2015, Emily and our sister Hannah reading to my daughter.)
So the last few paragraphs were news to me when I sat down to write this. ( ← See? Self-checks are helpful and important! Pause, breathe, reflect.) Thanks for sticking with me through it.
ALSO: We seek to honor and respect the journey of anyone who wanders into this little "LION" community. And it very well could be that you’re rebuilding your life, or walking alongside someone else doing so, and you are FULL of holiday spirit. (Things could have been SO MUCH different! Whew...)
That’s fantastic. Don’t you dare let someone else who is not at that place dampen your joy. (Though maybe give them a little space if they need it and maybe turn down your Mariah Carey.) Instead, funnel it. Repurpose your holiday spirit so that it can be shared with others in ways that are helpful to them.
We’re working on a “LION Holiday Survival Guide” for the coming weeks and look forward to helping support each other during this potentially beautiful and painful time of year. Make sure you follow us on Instagram and Facebook so you don't miss any of it!