The holiday season is almost upon us! This is the time of the year most people come together to celebrate family. However, for some families the holidays with its promises of togetherness, comfort, and joy can amply feelings of sadness and anxiety if the family is separated due to a deployment. Coping with a deployment can be difficult at anytime of the year, but somehow looking at glistening bows and sparkling trimmings seem to make a difficult time seem even more unbearable. Although the challenges of deployment can seem overwhelming during the holidays, you can cope successfully with difficult emotions by focusing on the positives, even if you have to look a little deeper than usual to find them. You can make your holidays uniquely your own and it will set your heart a glow!
- Be flexible! Adhering to rigid beliefs about what the holiday season, “should be like,” can create more anxiety and feelings of sadness. Embrace what you have and find ways to make it special. Get creative and figure out how to feel better with the opportunities you have in front of you. If your current situation doesn’t allow for your usual holiday traditions, maybe you can start a new family tradition.
- Be mindful! Remember that your spouse is having a difficult time being away from you during the holidays. They are experiencing their own range of emotions because of their absence. Don’t amplify these emotions by telling them how lonely or miserable you are. Instead, use the time you have with them to share encouragement and a positive outlook.
- Get artsy! Some of the most wonderful gifts we receive from those we love are the ones they create themselves. It is something special about knowing that someone thought so much of you that they took the time and effort to craft a gift especially for you. If you feel you are just not artistically inclined, write them a heartfelt poem or letter that expresses your sentiments. If you have children, help them create heartfelt decorations or gifts for the absent parent as well. Or create a special holiday care package for your spouse and include your handmade items.
- Remember the meaning of the season! The holidays are about joy, love, wonder, and happiness. Even if your spouse is away, you can still feel the joy, love, wonder, and happiness of being connected to them. Instead of being sad about the physical absence of your loved one, be filled with amazement over the love you share that transcends time and place.
- Be kind to yourself! Allow yourself to experience the array of emotions that you feel day-to-day. Explore where they are stemming from and practice positive self-talk. Emotions and thoughts constantly change and they are not who you are, they are just what you are feeling at the moment. Talk to a family member or close friend when your emotions get overwhelming. If the feelings persist, talk to a professional about how you are feeling. You don’t have to go through your emotions alone and you can be happy.
Mental Health and Wellness Advocate
Benita L. Thornhill, MA, LPCA is the spouse of a former Naval Surface Warfare Officer. She is the owner of Coastal Carolina Wellness Connection in Jacksonville, NC. She works with active duty military, veterans and their families. If you have any questions or need guidance, please email me here.