Many of you know I'm a therapist, and this week I'm seeing clients who are universally… let down. No matter how great Christmas was, it's over now, with nothing left but leftovers, extra pounds around the waist, the Christmas crap to take down and put away and, even worse–an incoming Visa bill to pay for it all. There's nothing more to look forward to except the long slog to spring (in our case in Maui, more tedious rainbows!) and the eventual buildup to some other anticipated event.
Humans don't like to lose anything. Even when the having is dubious at best. So we have a coping mechanism for this called anticipatory grief, in which we feel the loss and separation of loved ones/treasured trinkets/special events/our soul before it's even gone. Can you see the illogic of this? And yet we all do it.
It robs from the present to try to cushion the future–when all we have is the present.
So here's a thought. Set up something wonderful to do the week after New Year's, whether it's a spa day, a post-holiday credit-card burning party, even a Wallow In Self Pity Retreat (I'm in favor of these to keep whining and self indulgence contained). In addition, practice some mindfulness–breathe and occupy your body, notice, be present for the present. It's probably not that bad, and if you do a gratitude list, you'll find your attitude shifting into something more positive.
As for me and my house, we are hitting the road for Hana, leaving the dishes in the sink and the Christmas lights up. I'll let you know next week if it worked!
Great idea, Toby. I don’t usually feel empty after the holidays because I enjoy having time to myself and I usually dig into the stack of books I’ve got lying around, but I’ll take any excuse for a spa day! 🙂
You’ve got a wonderfully insightful website here. I’m new to this, and actually trying to figure out my focus as I work to help people through a new blog.
I just wanted to say Hi and acknowledge your ability to be straightforward and simple. Anticipatory grief is something that is eventual. We know its coming and it looks burdensome. I just spent 6 months interning at a major government hospital working in the hospice/palliative and end of life care units. Anticipatory grief was all around and even the clinicians would fall prey to its arms.
making sure we have something to do, self care is so imperative. Thank you for the reminder.
It’s been nice to find SOMETHING about anticipatory grief that isn’t all about death an chronic illness. I don’t have a blood family (long story), and I recently found that the one person whose family has been becoming family to me will probably be leaving the area within a year or so. I could go with her, it would give me some better career opportunities – but it would mean leaving my dance studio. Which sounds like nothing, to most people, but I live for dance. I have since I was born. This studio is literally across the street from my apartment. I’m there several days a week, I’ve been there for 4 years, it’s my home away from home and most of the girls see me as their unofficial “dance mom”. The owner and one of the teachers are also my family. So whether I go with her or I stay here, I lose roughly half of my emotional support. I’m very glad that it’s not a choice I have to make right away, at least I have time for some emotional processing first – but my heart is breaking over this already. And finding nothing but articles about death, dying, losing family members to lingering illness, dealing with MS and Dementia and so on was only making me feel worse. A move, especially only 3 or 4 hours away, seems like such a dumb thing to grieve, but the heart doesn’t much listen to logic…
I was talking to (okay, crying on) the studio owner tonight, and she was rather pointedly reminding me that if I get too caught up in grieving now, I’ll just miss out on enjoying the time that I *do* have. And knowing me, I’ll then regret that and beat myself up about it later (she didn’t bring that part up, that’s me talking). But right now, having JUST found this all out, I don’t think I can just cut it off, much as I wish I could…
Thoughtful response, Shalora! I hope you find your way to the answer that’s right for you!