We are rounding into the home stretch of the year. It won’t be long before you will be sharing your New Year’s resolutions with a close friend, gathering ideas on how best to spend your tax refund or imagining yourself in a tropical location to escape the winter weather blues. But before you get lost in losing thirty pounds, searching for a new car with a sizable down payment or ordering brochures for an adults only resort in Bimini, let’s get through this holiday season. And more often than not, with heavy hearts or people that we do not want to see.
Yes, that sounds really negative and not very festive. But most of our realities are not overflowing with elation. For many, the holiday season is the time of year that encapsulates the greatest amount of personal pain. This could be the first year without your loved one and fresh memories of that substantial loss. You could be the proverbial “black sheep” in the family. Therefore, sitting around a table serves the dish of reminding yourself that you aren’t good enough or do not fit in with others. And with all of the family and friends gathering around, there is sure to be a new baby or partner for someone else in the room, a painful reminder of what you fear you will never have. These are some of the true holiday moments that will be experienced this year.
How do you survive feeling lost, like an outcast or unlovable? First and foremost, acknowledge that you may not be on solid emotional footing. In the case of losing your bestfriend/life partner, even when surrounded by the most well meaning support, you will indeed feel the pain. Having spent time with someone who “got” you, cared for your heart and made you feel like the world was a beautiful place is an indescribable pain. Facing the reality that your room will never be filled with the abundance of that special love takes time to heal from and time takes the time it needs. Do not allow yourself to feel, or let others tell you, “You should be over that by now.” Grief is the great equalizer. When we are in the throes of it, there is nothing more honorable than to let yourself take those moments to reminisce on what was wonderful. Try to give yourself permission to feel the depth of those feelings. It won’t be easy. But with time, the pain won’t feel so suffocating forever. Next, be true to yourself by being honest with others around you. Having thoughts of being the outcast can be cathartic to share with someone that truly cares for you. If the dinner being hosted by family won’t garner a loving or listening ear, prepare to share your pain before you attend. Sometimes that supportive ear is a therapist or a hotline that offers care for individuals who are in need during the holidays. Reach out in an attempt to process your struggle in a safe place. Finally, choose to believe that things won’t always be so tough. Seeing others experience joy with an expanding family when you are dealing with infertility is tough. Feeling like the third wheel in a room when others are sporting a new partner and smiles can surely feel like a gut punch when there is nobody by your side. Choosing to believe that there will be more for you one day reframes your emotional wellbeing. No, this isn’t a suggestion to say, “I’m fine and nothing is wrong.” This is a gentle suggestion to find a place in yourself that can imagine other possibilities, even if those prospects are not in your here and now. Will all people facing infertility magically have children? Will love come your direction by your next “hot girl summer,” right before your 35th birthday? The answer to both of those may be a heartbreaking NO. That said, when you allow your pain to be the catalyst for bolstered ego strength, you may find a way to celebrate the joy and love around you which can in turn give you more hope.
There will never be a perfect holiday season. We are all fallible as humans. We bring ourselves wherever we go and contribute to the stale air of the holiday get together. And as you hope for people to be gracious with you, remember that extending that to others is a gift you can share in the midst of your own sadness. Challenge yourself to be kind, especially in the face of disappointment and grief. Even when you are the person in the room with the biggest needs, choose to bring some joy for the holiday. Do your best to share the value of you this season.