The first time I noticed that “my holidays” were different from “the holidays” or “their holidays” was May 2003. It was my first Mother’s Day without my mom. In class, we were given the assignment to create Mother’s Day cards to give our moms that weekend. My mom’s death was fresh, she’d been gone 4 months at that point, and saying, “Hey, I don’t think I can do that,” didn’t fit into my 10-year-old lexicon, so I did it.
I used construction paper to create a Mother’s Day card for a mom I still wasn’t used to referencing in the past tense.
I forced myself to fit into the mold of what “the holidays” were supposed to be because I didn’t think I could say no to that and yes to something else.
Last year, during the winter holiday season I launched #MyHolidays — an Instagram campaign to offer an alternative for those who struggle during this season. Whether you’re navigating an eating disorder, triggered by emails with gift guides for a parent you can’t shop for anymore because they’ve died, or navigating any other corner of your mental health, I wanted you to feel seen.
I wanted to feel seen.
So often we turn to Instagram to play the comparison game and no season sets us up more for that kind of self-punishment than the winter holiday season. It’s one holiday after the other, one idyllic scene after the next. You don’t hate the beauty of snow coming down, a well-lit Christmas tree, or gifts on the third night of Hanukkah. It’s not that you despise all or anything about “the holidays” as they’re sold to us, but maybe if you’re like me, you are aching for more. Maybe you too spent years wishing that someone would also make room for the tears, the guilt, and the layers that come with the wrapping paper.
Feeling like the other in a world full of people who seem to “have it” or “get it” in ways that you don’t sucks. I’ve spent 17 years alongside my grief during the holiday season and it’s pushed me to search for a reality and a community where other is the last thing I am. Instead, I am seen, I am invited, and I am whole. I get to exist within the intricacies of my very real life that doesn’t stop just because the holiday season starts.
Ultimately, letting my guard down and admitting this season is hard is what makes it easier to navigate.
If you’re one of us, welcome.
I write about mental health, grief, and how to cope with life’s every day challenges on vivnunez.com.
Follow along on my instagram.com/vivnunez for mini-essays on the same topics.
Sign up for a weekly newsletter of encouragement: https://view.flodesk.com/pages/5d8bc3323b90eb0010f0abb1