5 Steps for Avoiding Guilt this Holiday Season

By Linda Burhans

Reset the computer in your head. That’s right. Wipe out the hard drive that carries holiday messages of the past. Zap it! The perfection you remember is likely skewed, anyway.
Watch “Merry Christmas Mr. Bean.” I’m serious. If not “Merry Christmas Mr. Bean,” find something else funny, silly and maybe touching, but touching in a new, imperfect way. My grandson and I started watching “Merry Christmas Mr. Bean” each Thanksgiving holiday. The tradition began after deaths over the holidays, two seasons in a row. I still remember my grandson saying to me, after the second death, “I hope we don’t have a funeral this Christmas.” Somehow, Mr. Bean, who lives in his own little world, is able to create his own happiness. When he tries to live life like other people, he fails. But when he is true to himself, he is happy. There’s a lesson there.

Most of the time, before we can be thankful, we have to come to some acceptance of where we are in life. Often that place isn’t what we would have chosen, but it’s where we are, so if we accept it – which doesn’t mean liking it – but if we accept it, then we can work our way to some gratitude. Maybe that gratitude is only that we are growing through our pain. But a slight feeling of gratitude can help our attitude, and maybe we can get a grip on what is really important.

Talk to each generation. Even small children can understand, if they are told in a loving way, that your time is short because Grandma needs you, too, and that you will need to cut corners on some of the frills. Then tell Grandma the same thing. You’d be surprised how much an elder, even an elder with dementia, can understand. Is she just sitting and staring into space? Talk anyway. She’d want you to spend time with your kids if she could tell you that.

Then simplify. Forgive yourself for the lack of decorating, the on-line shopping, the skipped Christmas cards. Indeed, congratulate yourself! Remind yourself that your health and sanity are a gift to your loved ones and by skipping some of the frills, they will have more of you. And that is far, far more important than a Norman Rockwell Christmas.

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