Honoring Holiday Emotions

“Honoring All the Emotions of the Holidays”  Parish Nurse Article December 2023  This time of year can mean so many emotio...

Honoring Holiday Emotions
This time of year can mean so many emotions
3 min read
“Honoring All the Emotions of the Holidays” 

Parish Nurse Article December 2023 

This time of year can mean so many emotions….with so little time to process them. At the Williams household, the last few months have certainly been a time of a variety of emotions…from complete shock when we found out that Greg needed more extensive surgery than initially thought and that I needed surgery quickly…to anxieties during his 9-hour surgery and six days in ICU…to thankfulness for excellent surgeons and nursing care and to be going home…to grit in getting through complications after our surgeries...to humbleness and profound gratitude because of the many kindnesses, encouragement and prayers offered by friends and family…to cautious optimism as we continue to heal. PSHEW! And now…it’s the holidays, with all of the joys ..and stresses…that this time of year brings. 

You may remember Scott and Holly Stoner, who visited St. Luke’s many years ago and developed the Wellness Compass. Their words about the emotions of the holidays struck such a chord with me—especially this year. They say it all so well:  
Screenshot 2023-12-14 at 4.58.26 PM
“We decided over the last few days that we want our columns during the holiday season to be the very best ones we have ever written, ones that readers will remember forever. And if they don’t live up to that hope, they will all have been for naught."

There is no pressure with this expectation, right? 
While this aspiration is, of course, tongue in cheek, we began today’s column by sharing it as we heard a commercial this week that included a phrase that seemed equally silly. In the commercial a voice sang out, ”Make this the best holiday season ever—one they will never forget.” Again, there is no pressure with this expectation, right? From a wellness vantage point, though, the simple yet powerful suggestion in the ad seemed to be a set-up for holiday disappointment, one that completely ignores the complex emotions that most people feel during the holiday season.  
The reality is that we experience the full range of emotions this time of year. It is a time we can be acutely aware of any losses we have experienced, especially if this is the first holiday without a loved one. Financial pressures are common and can lead to high levels of stress. There are also the emotions that come from the temptation to compare ourselves to others who, based on their social media posts, seem to be having the “best holiday season ever.” Additionally, in the midst of the holidays this year, we are all experiencing the overwhelming suffering that is happening in the greater world right now, suffering that is breaking all of our hearts. 
As marriage and family therapists, we are also aware of the importance of honoring emotions, including the ones that don’t fit the script of a feel-good holiday movie or commercial.  
We have yet to hear a commercial with the following, so we will offer it here: "Make this a holiday season where you prioritize your wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. Focus on the spiritual meaning of the holidays and small expressions of kindness and compassion, and try not to let expectations (your own or others’) create undue pressure. Embrace, without judgment, whatever emotions you are feeling this year.”  
The holidays can stir up the full range of our emotions. Let’s be sure to make space for ourselves and our relationships to honor them all.”  
December 21 is just a few days away, and the Longest Night Service will be that evening at 5pm. This service is also an opportunity to honor those emotions, and raise them up for healing. I so hope you will join us, and please feel free to invite others as well. 
Faithfully yours, 
Becky Williams, RN, BSN 
Director of Health Ministries 
Pastoral Care Facilitator 

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