The holidays are upon us and with them comes the annual minefield of joys and sorrows, big emotions, family and traditions.   It can be a challenging mix to navigate most years and this year CoVid will make it even trickier. If you got “Promoted” this year, it may be even harder still.

Maybe it was your parent who died. Maybe it was a sibling, aunt or uncle, whomever it was, they died. Suddenly you’re the matriarch or patriarch of your family. Before you even have time to understand the depth and scope of your own loss of this person, you feel the weight of your new title descend upon you. It feels heavy.

You’re IT now. The head of the family. There’s no one older or wiser to turn to for advice… it’s just you.

“Oh Crap!”   

You haven’t suddenly gained wisdom or expertise… just a title that implies it and that title can feel heavy.

Like there is some capital “R” Responsibility that you should be prepared to take on.

Nothing has changed, really. You’re still you. Maybe you’re kind, maybe you’re wise… or maybe you’re still the same goofball you were in high school. Nothing in life prepares you for becoming the “Grand Poohbah”. How did this happen? You feel as though some unseen torch has been passed to you and you have no idea how to care for it, or what to do.

It’s lonely.

Whether or not you are grieving the person who left this job to you, you may be grieving the unknowns of navigating life with no one “out front” to lead you. Suddenly, you’re the leader of the pack.

You may feel new pressures to set good examples or maybe it has suddenly made you feel OLD?! There are so many things we can feel when changes happen.

Welcome to grief. Life isn’t what it used to be. Gender and familial roles are not as clear-cut as they once were… you’re on boggy ground. If you’re the adventuresome type, this stage of life may feel like an enormous gift. But if you’re not… it’s not.

“What shall we do about this or that, Grandma?” “I have no clue.” may be your first thought and “I don’t care.” may be your second.

How do you lead a family in 2020? The answer is gently.   

We are in the midst of a strange and confusing year. It has worn on everyone. If you find yourself at the head of the table this year, this is your opportunity to bring kindness with you. Be gentle with yourself, tell the truth when things hurt.

If you can, listen when others talk about their hurts. What comes from those conversations may be your opportunity to guide your family onto a path of growth and healing they’ve never known before.

That’s quite a legacy to leave behind for the next one, who sits in your seat.

Written by Catherine Mitchell, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist serving the Durham Region