Underneath layers of holiday ads and last-minute shopping, family remains the steadily beating heart of the holidays. This year, the pandemic has given families around the globe a taste of what military families have gone through for years; separation. For civilians, this may be the first year spent apart from parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and good friends. For military spouses, the pandemic means something more.
If your loved one is deployed, this is likely the first time you have to deal with a holiday deployment in isolation. While being kept apart from loved ones is never easy, you’re not alone- even if it feels that way. Drawn from the experiences of fellow military families, these tips can help restore your holiday cheer this winter.
- Embrace the tissue box
Grab the tissues or a roll of tp from the economy pack you bought back in March. Go on, we’ll wait. Feeling emotional when you’re separated from your favorite person in the world over the holidays is normal. Don’t bottle it up! If you’re feeling sad, express those feelings. Call a friend who has been there. Talking it out won’t erase the sadness, but a good friend can help shoulder some of the weight. You don’t have to carry difficult feelings alone!
If you have children, you don’t have to put on a happy face. By being open about your own feelings, you’re letting your kids know that it’s healthy to share their own. Bring out the tissue box and talk. Even if you don’t feel like it, trust us. It helps.
- Stay connected however you can
Let’s face it; the irritating Mariah Carey song is true. All your partner wants for Christmas is you. While care packages are always welcome, the most meaningful gifts are the ones that are personal and thoughtful. Get the kids together to write love notes, record a song or video, or design a picture book. Fill the pages with drawings, hand prints, happy memories, and anything else that will remind your deployed partner how much they are loved.
Video chat whenever you can, too. Try to include your partner on special days by sharing a meal together or letting them watch while they kids open their gifts. That way, they’re still a part of the experience even if they’re miles away.
- Practice mindfulness
As much as you miss your partner, there is a day in front of you waiting to be lived. Whether it’s the day you want or not, it’s the one you have. Instead of pining after the people you miss, cherish the time you have with the people you’re actually with. Focus on bringing joy to those around you, and look for the happiness in the simple things. Siblings taking a break from fighting to read a book together. A call to a relative you haven’t had time to catch up with in years. A hot cup of coffee with extra cream and sugar. Ordinary moments are often the ones that stand out in memory, so don’t miss the ones happening right under your nose.
- Look to the future
Living in the moment doesn’t mean you have to leave your partner out of the celebration. Turn your wishes into memories. With the whole family, write down what you can’t wait to do with your loved one when they return home. You can put your wishes in a jar or on a garland, or write them on ornaments to hang on the tree. Next year, you can read those wishes together and make them come true.
If the season feeling a little cold and dark this year, giving to others is one of the easiest ways to make your heart feel a little warmer. While extra precautions should be taken with any in-person visits, simple, safe gestures can make brighten someone’s day- and your own!
Bake cookies or make care packages with your kids to deliver to elderly neighbors. Surprise them with a hot meal, shovel their driveway, or offer to run errands for them. Put together boxes for your closest friends and relatives filled with small gifts and photos. Donate to military families in need, or volunteer virtually.
Whether you’re cheering up a friend or helping a complete stranger, giving to others is one of the most heartwarming gifts you can give yourself.
If you need extra support this year, the military community is ready to help. For a list of resources to help you along your journey as a military fam, click here.