Video version of this post can be found HERE.
Some of us LOVE the holidays, and some dread them. The REASON both sides feel so strongly is very often lost on each other. I am a Christmas baby, born 2 days before. I have always LOVED the holidays. However after losing my brother, and having estranged family members, I also have felt the despair and sadness that come during this time of year. I have had to make some very intentional efforts to keep those feelings balanced. I wanted to share them with you.
Whether we are suffering from mental illness and feeling isolated and alone, we are missing a lost loved one, or estranged from family we used to once be close to – the holidays can make those feelings magnified. Because I have been there, here are some of my go-to reminders and ideas to keep my head up and avoid too many dark moments of sadness.
- Be kind to yourself. Set reasonable goals for yourself. Don’t over commit. Give YOURSELF a gift by not putting yourself in toxic situations in the name of “family”. I am a firm believer that family should also equal love and support. SURE we all have tests and issues, everyone has a level of dysfunction, but it shouldn’t be to the point of causing you more emotional harm. Blood is NOT everything. You can choose who you spend your holidays with, there are no laws saying where you have to be. Make the choice that FEELS the best. We should never willingly sit through abuse, narcissism, hurtful or ignorant comments, in the name of “family”.
- Be kind to others. I find showing kindness to OTHERS in memory of people I have lost, helps remind me that there are others also suffering this time of year, and also makes my heart happy. Sure you can donate things to a shelter, or time at a food bank. But you can also be creative. Friends of Jimmy story.
- Change things up! New recipes? New tradition? Something NEW each year will help keep things interesting and fun.
- Give yourself the gift of missing at least one planned function. If you have 5 on your calendar, decide to take one off. And use that time JUST FOR YOU. Go get a massage. Go the movies with a friend. Order pizza and watch Elf on your couch. Snuggle a pet or someone else’s pet. Give yourself that gift.
Most people that are IN REAL LOVE with the holidays, sometimes have a hard time understanding why some people are grinches. It fills us with so much joy that it’s hard for us to see past our warm festive circle. Often times the easiest thing to do when met with someone struggling during our happiest time of year, is to just leave them to themselves, but thats not always the best option. Here are some things that I have tried to remember when feeling festive around people that are struggling:
- Please don’t say “You are welcome to come over, just let us know” to everyone. I mean that’s a fine gesture in itself but you KNOW there are people that won’t reach out and invite themselves – so you need to take your candy cane loving ass a step further and reach out to them. Gently ask what their plans are, tell them maybe something you are stressing about, and ask for their help. Make them feel needed and wanted, because they ARE needed and wanted. It’s not easy to feel a part of something if the hosts have ALL their people and ALL the things they need for a huge dinner, it’s actually easier in those situations to fade into the back and not participate. SHOW vulnerability and make sure people know how and why they are needed at your holiday event.
- No Guilt. If they can’t come or can’t do it – IT’S OKAY. Make sure they just know that they are welcome and that you just wanted to make sure they had a comfortable place to be around people that are easy and love them.
- If you sense someone pulling away during this time, keep STAY ENGAGED. It can be as simple as texting a funny gif, picking them up their fav coffee or tea while you are out and dropping it off to them to say hi, making sure they know that YOU see them and you want to love on them.
- DO NOT give advice. The worst thing you can do during the holidays is try to fix whatever is upsetting the person who is hurting. If they are estranged from a family member, don’t tell them how to make it better, or how family is blood and “you only have one mother”. You don’t know their story, and aren’t in their shoes. If they lost a family member, they don’t want to hear “they are in a better place” or “remember the good times” – because if that were true, they would be doing it. The truth is, the holidays are SHITTY for people with family who have passed or are estranged from their lives, and they need that validation. VALIDATION and an EAR. That’s all. Tell them – “UGH that is so horrible, I am so sorry you have to go through that. It has to be so hard during the holidays. I am so happy you are here with us.” And then let them say whatever they need to say, without fear of judgement.
- BE AN ALLY. Thanksgiving is a fabricated racist made up holiday that was full of lies stuffed down our throats as kids. Now while I am NOT a supporter of mega politics being discussed at holiday parties, I AM a proponent of civil rights and the correct side of history being protected. So if UNCLE JEB decides to thank the PILGRIMS, you can raise your glass and say “Sorry I will not thank anyone who mercilessly massacred innocent Native Americans – but CHEERS to unlearning!” If our dreaded president, Ted Cruz or any other horrible topic arises, you can stand firm, share your sentiment, and be an ally, without engaging in arguments. Political arguments during the holidays with ignorant people are the same thing as throwing all of your hosts food in the trash. Cause you lose your appetite that quickly. In short: Be firm, Be an ALLY, Don’t waiver, but also, don’t talk in circles with idiots. Most of the time, people with anxiety and sadness during the holidays are fueled and teased by these types of people, and don’t have the energy or heart to stand up to them. Whether its racism, gender bias or refusal to acknowledge, politics or just good old family gossip, at least one of those triggers us during the holidays. It’s nice to have an ally there to be our battle assist.
In closing – the holidays are BASICALLY fabricated marketing money makers now. Pilgrims were murderers, Jesus wasn’t born on Christmas, if you even believe he existed, so make of those holidays what YOU need out of them. For me, both are about my CHOSEN family. The people around me who care about me and are part of my life, the duration of the year, and who may need extra family around them.