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Heal the Holiday Blues with Joy and Gratitude

Thriving over just surviving

I recently saw a meme on Facebook that read, “Please remember that the holidays are not a happy season for everyone.” I hear that often, and unfortunately, it’s common to let the holidays stress us out.  Especially if we’re missing someone.

My firstborn and only daughter, Sarah, was born on Christmas Eve 1986.  She died in 2008, a few months before her 22nd birthday. When Sarah left this Earth, it was a real tragedy for me. One of the things I could easily have done was let the anniversary of her birthday ruin every Christmas. Unfortunately, that’s what some people choose to do.

Self development is a lifetime commitment

As a long time massage therapist and bodywork instructor, I know that the body is connected to every experience and emotion felt during a lifetime. Ever since I took my life back from bi-polar disorder, liver disease and pharmaceutical drug addiction in the early 1990s, I perform and receive a lot of energetic and physical work on my body and mind. That allows me to give and participate in trauma and grief work for others.

I am also being treated by a chiropractor that has mastery certification and experience in Neuro Emotional Technique (NET). This remarkable work is what started my journey back to health in the mid-1990s, and it showed up in my life again at the perfect time. NET gets to the root cause of trauma and unravels it from the nervous system in a variety of ways.  It seems to dissolve every incident that connected to that energy of origin.  To understand this body/mind connection, one might want to read the work of Candace Pert, Ph.D. Her most popular books include Molecules of Emotion and Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind.

One way to work with grief

My NET practitioner encourages people to “feel” into the grief, and whenever it comes up, she wants you to really cry it out. The other day, I was in my garage looking for something specific and stumbled upon an open box that held several items of clothing. Seeing a great opportunity to de-clutter the garage, I pulled out the clothes to wash them. The first surprise was an answer to a prayer—two sweatshirts I had wondered about the day before. The next surprise was two sweaters that belonged to Sarah. One of those sweaters was something we stumbled upon together at a Goodwill store on a holiday break. We playfully fought over it, and she loved it so much I gave it to her instead of keeping it for myself.

When I took that sweater out of the dryer, tears came to my eyes.  I remembered the shopping trip over the holidays where we purchased that sweater. I immediately tried to identify where I felt that grief, so I could really feel into it.  Suddenly the tears stopped as joy and the vividness of my happy memory came flooding back. With the memory came waves of joy and satisfaction of the richness, beauty and meaning in my life. This is very different than feeling blue.

The next day, I had a similar experience. I was taking a continuing education class to learn simple Asian bodywork techniques in the event trauma comes to the surface during a client session. One of the things we were instructed to do was to go back to an old trauma of our own, draw it out with colored pencils and art paper, and explain the story to our partner with very specific details.

Another Reframe

I recalled the story of when I was 8 years old and my bicycle hit a sidewalk cracked by tree roots. The cycle flew in the air in one direction, while I flew up in the opposite direction. The fender clipped my leg and left a wide gash. While drawing the story and giving my partner the details, I realized several things.  One friend had peddled quickly around the block to the fire station to get help.  Another friend had peddled in the opposite direction to tell my parents there had been an accident. My dad was running toward us at record speed as the fire chief was getting out of his car to scoop me up. Away we went to the hospital, siren blazing and dad holding me in his arms, talking softly.

The tears came as I recalled how much support I had at that time when I needed it the most. I felt so grateful and so supported in that moment that all the trauma and pain of the accident itself completely disappeared from the tissues of my body.

What This Experience Taught Me

I learned that joy and gratitude are healers of trauma, grief and any holiday blues. For this reason, as I begin thinking about my goals for 2018, I am recommitted to my daily gratitude journal. I’m not waiting for January 1st to “start over.” I challenge everyone to start a gratitude journal today and see if that changes how you handle the holidays.

Published in the December 2017 edition of Natural Awakenings on page 23.
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