‘Tis the Season for Holiday Cheer?

By Kimberly Alexander, M.S.

Well, the holiday season has finally arrived! Holiday décor posted up everywhere… office parties being scheduled and planned for… and the usual conversations about potlucks, gifts, and invites repeat day to day like it’s groundhog’s day. All this happening to spread holiday cheer. It’s a beautiful thing!

However, once typically excited for this time of year, I’m now sullen and a bit anxious at times because I’m constantly surrounded by all of these beautiful things that remind me of my grandmother. She passed earlier this year and memories of her seem to be all around me. From things my family would say and how they may say it to shopping for ingredients in recipes that I have learned from my grandmother to simply making dishes that I know my grandmother always enjoyed. To put it simply, I miss her. And there is nothing irrational about that.

Nevertheless, I find that I’m bracing myself for when it’s time to bake the traditional holiday cakes that she made year after year, taught me to make, and always gave me feedback every Christmas on how my cakes turned out. That’s where the anxiety comes in. I guess I’m fearful of the sadness that I may feel (will likely feel) when preparing to bake on top of all the other memories of my grandmother that are interwoven into the holiday season. It’s a whirlwind of beliefs that I cannot bear the sad emotions tied to this season and how I might be defined if I decide to bake or not bake these cakes. I don’t think I can stand it. Should I be able to “stand” the sadness? I might be looked at as a bad person if I appeared “unbothered”. Should I avoid the sadness by not baking this year? But others might look at me poorly for dropping the tradition. And is this sadness that easy to “fix” … by not baking?

Spoiler alert*** I’m undoubtedly going to bake. While the thoughts and questions still occur, I’m sure of a few things. Baking these cakes have always made me feel connected to my grandmother and my lineage. And that feeling of connectedness is something I definitely couldn’t stand to lose. Although this sadness is difficult to tolerate, it is normal to feel this way. But I would never want to trade in a chance to feel this sense of connectedness if it meant not feeling sad for my loss. Furthermore, Thanksgiving was also an important holiday in which my family cooked many dishes I know my grandmother always enjoyed and we were able to get through it, together, in uplifted spirits. We all had a good time being together in spite of us missing my grandmother. So maybe that’s the key… it’s not about whether or not I can tolerate my sadness, but instead, it’s about who I endure these emotions with. Maybe because I’m with my family, our shared longing for my grandmother is the reason why I will be able to endure all that comes with this first holiday season without her.

Kimberly Alexander, M.S.

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