Military life can take you far, far away from family, friends, and familiar places. That can be hard enough… without the holidays. Everything feels more nostalgic and emotional during the holidays. Add a soundtrack of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” and it can be difficult for even the most stalwart among us.
Whether you’re away from your family for military reasons (darn needs of the military!), for financial reasons (darn airplane tickets!), or other reasons, here are a few ways to cope:
Embrace the suck
You’ve heard it during deployment, and it’s true for this situation too. Embrace the suckiness that is being away from your family on Christmas. Accept that things aren’t going to be the same. Accept that you’re going to feel sad or miss them–at least at some point during the holidays.
Think of the cool stuff
I don’t care what the naysayers, er, say. Every single duty station has something cool about it. Go find that thing–even if it’s just one thing– and enjoy it during Christmas. Maybe you love the movie theater on base. Maybe there’s a great parade in the town near post. What about the experiences you’ll never get again– like seeing how Japan celebrates Christmas, surfing on Christmas Eve, or ringing in the new year in Europe? If you can focus on what is awesome, you can readjust your perspective.
Focus on others
You absolutely need to take care of yourself. So have that cry or watch that movie that your family always sees. But sometimes the best way to pull yourself out of a lousy funk is to focus on making life happier and better for others. That might look like starting a new tradition with your family or maybe it’s volunteering sometime during the season to help others.
Don’t sit inside and mope–especially if you’re also dealing with deployment. Get out and do something. And if you can’t, invite folks over. Have Christmas Eve breakfast with a friend. Take the kids for a walk to see the lights in the neighborhood. Visit a local coffee shop for hot chocolate on a random evening. And make plans with your family, too. Schedule a Skype sesh to open presents or make plans to have Christmas another time when you all can be together.
There is no perfect Christmas because we are all imperfect people. There’s such pressure to have a perfect holiday, but the truth is, that just doesn’t exist. Others may look like they’re having the perfect Christmas with their family, but pictures and social media postings don’t tell the whole truth. Even when families love each other and are happy to be together, small spats happen. Cookies burn. People get on each others’ nerves.
Make this year count
It feel like this year is a “throwaway” year when you’re unable to be with family and the people you love during the holidays. But every single year is precious. Make this one count because it’s a year that you’re alive and get to enjoy the beauty of the season– no matter where you are or who you’re with. It’s going to be a lovely one. Enjoy it.