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#SELChat: Processing and Healing as a Family Over the Holidays

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Over the years, each time I hear that Christmas song, I wonder, “Is it really?” According to a study by healthcare provider Cigna in 2018, nearly half of Americans sometimes or always feel alone. That is even more true this year as we are urged to stay put this Holiday Season due to the surge of COVID-19.

For some of us, the holidays are a bittersweet mix of joy and grief. Maybe life didn’t go the way we expected because of disappointment, death, or divorce. I walked through a heart-wrenching divorce, and the effects of that split are felt by me and my kids every holiday. They share their time between me and their dad.  For days, my home is filled with their raucous laughter, and then it all becomes quiet…too quiet.

In the silence, I am faced with memories and questions, tears, and gratitude  I have learned to relish the stillness — to let the empty moments be filled with peace. The heartbreak I have experienced has been a crucible, shaping me into the woman I am today. I know first-hand the truth that all things work together for good, for me and my kids. We’ve grown through the experiences of the past twelve years in ways that I never thought possible before.

Whatever your pain, I challenge you to own it. Name the hurt and sadness and let yourself feel it. Give yourself and your loved ones space to process. That’s the first step toward healing.

Likewise, your children may be feeling an unusual sense of sadness and loss in the midst of the twinkling lights. Let them feel what they need to feel. Instead of telling them not to feel sad or angry, empathize with them.  Let them know that you feel sad and angry too. Walking hand-in-hand with your children through grief is sacred.

For those who are hurting today, I see you; I know and understand. May we find the grace to feel the ache, the courage to run into the arms of loved ones, the wisdom to rest, and the hope for restoration.

For my friends whose lives are seemingly intact, please do not pity or judge. Remember each one of us is on our own journey.

For all of us, let us be kind to one another and give thanks for life’s gifts.

Here are a few suggestions for slowing down and reconnecting with ourselves, our children, and our neighbors. Pick one or two, and enjoy.

• Write a letter to the loved ones you miss dearly.  

• Breathe deeply; smell the cinnamon and the pine.

• Pour a cup of hot cocoa, sit and reminisce about the past year.

• Gather your family together and read your favorite holiday story.

• Watch the classic film “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

• Bake cookies and share them with an elderly neighbor.

About Tamara Fyke

Tamara Fyke is an educator and social entrepreneur with a passion for kids, families, and urban communities. She is the creator and author of Love In A Big World, which provides mental health, SEL, and wellness curriculum and content. During quarantine, Tamara created MusiCity Kids, an online educational show for kids ages 6-12 that addresses health, movement, character development, STEAM, and more.

Tamara is editor of Building People: Social & Emotional Learning for Kids, Schools & Communities, a book that brings 12 wide-ranging perspectives on SEL to educators, parents, and leaders. Follow her on Twitter @Tamara_Fyke

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