Let me introduce myself. I am a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. During the day, I can be found as a bereavement specialist, a Cub Scout Den leader, a Sunday School teacher, a school volunteer. I spend my days cooking, cleaning and running taxi for my family. I am there whenever anyone needs an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on.
And I will be the first to admit, I have a hard time saying “No.” It’s just not my nature. Are there times that I hold out hope that someone else will step up to the plate when needed? Absolutely. Will I end up stepping in if nobody else does? I’m sure you’ve probably already guessed the answer. So why am I telling you all this? Because I want you to know that it’s normal to feel the pressure to say “Yes.” But even more than that, I want you to know that it’s OK to say “No.” This is especially important to remember as the holidays approach.
When someone you love dies, the holidays become a dreaded time. The traditions that once were, are no longer. Roles and expectations change. What perhaps used to be a time of excitement and anticipation is now a time of sorrow and apprehension. As the holidays descend upon us, we become inundated with holiday events and get-togethers. We feel the pressure to say “Yes” to things, when all we really want to say is “No.” Often family and friends mean well when they try to include you in their festivities. Whether real or perceived, we feel the expectation to be involved.
During this holiday season I want you to remember two essential things:
- It’s OK to say “No.” Whether this is the first holiday season since your loved one died, or your third, cut yourself a break. If you are invited to a party or event and you do not feel comfortable attending, it’s OK to say “No.” In the same respect, if you do feel like engaging but are not certain to what degree, it’s OK to say “Yes” on your own terms. Perhaps that means driving yourself so that you can leave early if needed. Or talking to a friend or family member beforehand to have an “escape plan.” It might even mean scouting out a quiet room or area when you arrive, so that you are able to slip away if needed. Whatever it is for you, know that it is OK to embrace that.
- Make sure you take care of yourself. Put yourself and your own needs first. Listen to what your body is telling you - eat right and get good sleep. Lower your own expectations of yourself, and let people know what you need from them. Pamper yourself, whether it’s an activity out or a good book in. Be true to yourself.
We are a constant work in progress. I won’t lie to you and say that I have it all figured out. I still find myself at times saying “Yes” when my heart is struggling and wants to say “No.” But I’m working on it. That’s sometimes the best we can do. Just know that it’s OK to give yourself permission to put yourself first.