Before I get to the actual “stationery” component of this “Stationery Sundays” post, I want to offer some tips that may be helpful in facing what will be a very difficult December for so many. On one hand, the holidays are infusing brightness and cheer into a largely dismal year, which in itself can be helpful and explains the popularity of early starts to holiday activities this season. On the other hand, the holidays can intensify feelings of grief, loneliness, financial strain, and time pressure, especially preceding a winter that is sure to be far more challenging than would be the case in a typical year.
One of the primary sources of suffering for massive numbers of people this year is coping with the loss of family members and facing the first holiday season without them. 2020’s death toll was unusually high not only because of Covid, but for other reasons as well. Just in my own friends group alone, a significant proportion has lost elderly parents over the past ten months to ailments unrelated to the coronavirus in all but two instances. Others have lost dear friends and beloved pets, or have ended long-term relationships that reached a breaking point under quarantine conditions.
Major media outlets are sensitized to the fact that mental health issues are highly prevalent this year, especially now, so I’ve been seeing lots of press on this topic. In addition to what was shared in my previous post, “Stamping Out Winter Dread,” below are the articles that I feel have the most meaningful advice to offer at this difficult time.
- Well+Good, “How to Deal When Your Holidays Aren’t Going To Look the Same This Year” (November 18, 2020)
- HuffPost, “How To Deal With Grief If It’s Your First Holiday Without A Loved One” (November 24, 2020)
- The Sunday Paper, “How to Take Care of Yourself When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed” (November 29, 2020)
- PureWow, “10 Ways to Fight Loneliness This Winter, According to Mental Health Experts” (December 1, 2020)
- The Washington Post, “How to talk to loved ones when you’re worried about their mental health” (December 1, 2020)|
- CNN Health, “25 fun things to do this winter” (November 19, 2020)
I hope these are helpful.
At a time when the need for connection is especially strong, yet gathering in person with loved ones is especially difficult, card- and letter-writing can be very therapeutic, and the holidays provide the perfect context for doing just that. It’s been a helpful activity for me personally. And if you can’t give or send a gift to someone you care about this year, writing and mailing them a message from the heart can be a powerful yet cost-effective alternative.
A couple of weeks ago, I ducked into my local pharmacy on an errand and caught a glimpse of something bright and shimmery out of the corner of my eye. It was a stunning box of Sara Miller Peacock holiday cards from The Art File in England, pictured above (though my homegrown photo doesn’t do them proper justice), and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I’d already bought all the cards I needed for the season — perhaps even too many already — and yet I couldn’t pass these up. The colors were so vivid! The paper stock was so thick! The texture was so shiny! The illustration was so skillful! A perfect storm of WOW…I’d never seen anything quite like these cards. They came only six to a box, a tiny stash to be dispensed sparingly, especially as they were not cheap. Ironically, these cards became my new favorites after being well stocked for the season and having sent out most of my holiday greetings already.
It turns out that I was far from the only person impressed by these cards. When I brought them to the checkout counter, the cashier did a double-take. “I didn’t realize we had these,” she said. “They’re pretty….Wow, they’re really pretty!” Shortly after digging into The Art File’s social media, I learned that the company’s Luxury Boxes had won one of The Henries 2020 Greeting Card Awards on December 10th for “Best Christmas Box or Pack Collection.” The Henries — whose namesake Sir Henry Cole is credited with introducing the first commercially produced Christmas card in 1843 — are the U.K. equivalent of the U.S. Greeting Card Association (GCA)’s Louie Awards (which I discussed in my previous post summarizing highlights from a GCA webinar). The Henries and the Louies are essentially the Oscars of the stationery industry in their respective countries of origin.
Writing messages that are uplifting and meaningful during such a grim year can be daunting. It’s tricky striking a balance between acknowledging the difficulties of 2020 and maintaining a positive tone. Here are some of the key themes I’ve focused on in my own cards:
- Thanks for making the tough times easier to bear. Whenever I’ve been able to, I’ve expressed gratitude in my cards for the ways in which their recipients have made 2020 more tolerable for me. With so many of us wrapped up in our own problems, and in the face of such overwhelming circumstances, it can be easy to lose sight of any significance we may have as individuals and of our power to positively impact much of anything. Reminding people of their importance in your life with a personal detail or two can work wonders.
- Try to take comfort in what remains: I’ve expressed hope in my cards that their recipients still find moments of joy where they can. 2020 has taken so much from us — loved ones, jobs, independence, financial resources, time — but we are still here and breathing. Others we love have survived and remain in the world. Most people reading this blog have a roof over their heads and food to eat (while tragically many others do not). Even in all this darkness, we can find glimmers of light…and those are worth celebrating.
- Things will get better. My messaging is full of well wishes for brighter days in 2021 — in some cases just generally, and in other cases, customized to what I know the recipient is hoping for individually. I can strike a tone of genuine optimism in my cards because I truly believe that life will improve. The New Year offers us a chance to start fresh and put 2020 in the rearview mirror. We have vaccines coming. The U.S. will have a new presidential administration. As the pandemic recedes, previous activities will become safe again. Employment opportunities will reemerge. And perhaps we will make wiser choices as individuals and as a society based on what we’ve learned this year. Eventually we will be reunited with those we hold dear…and in our cards, we can describe some of the activities we most look forward to resuming with them.
May your writing efforts help to bring a bit of holiday spirit to both you and your recipients.