It’s that time of the year again, right before the chaos of family dinners, gift shopping, below freezing weather, and colds. For some, this time of the year is joyous; time to see family you haven’t seen all year or to finally have a break from work. For others, though, it’s the hardest time of the year.
Some of the population will face nerves thinking about seeing family again that brings up added stress/anxiety, going to a gathering where a loved one is no longer present (death or separation), not having a family to spend time with, or not having the opportunity to spend time with loved ones.
Stress/Anxiety can intensify during this time of year. There’s an unsaid expectation of needing to be cheerful and feeling the need to fit into the family’s expectations; not to mention, buying gifts. During this time of year, we are reminded of the values/morals the family holds and how we may no longer fit within those guidelines. Why would you be cheery and full of joy to spend time with Uncle Joe who points out how he’s not okay with what you’re wearing or how you’re living life? Bring on the food, uncomfortable laughter, and a potential drink. In addition to these uncomfortable feelings, we are also expected (by some) to buy gifts. In the world right now, with inflation and the cost of living being incredibly high, spending money on gifts is tough and can bring up feelings of guilt, shame, or inadequacy.
Grief around the holidays is also felt more intensely. Grandpa Tom isn’t here to cut the turkey or Aunt Lidia isn’t here to sing songs; we are reminded of the people who we loved so much, no longer being a part of our lives. Their lack of presence is heavy, sad, and hard to grasp. The holidays are going to look and feel different now. Experiencing change in any capacity is difficult, especially the time you look forward to the most during the year.
Sometimes, the holiday is rough for people due to the lack of family they have, whether due to death, cutting ties, or not having a family that keeps in touch with you. What are you supposed to do when you see and hear people’s excitement about their holiday plans? Oh right, just awkwardly agree or not respond because you don’t want to explain yourself. The holiday brings back feelings of loneliness and pain that have been pushed down or dealt with. The reason why there is no family to spend time with comes back to the surface, opening up that wound again.
With inflation, increase in hurricanes, or illness causing chaos in the world, it’s hard to reach our families. Some may live abroad, some may not have the funds to travel, some may be sick, and some may have to sacrifice seeing family to make money for their own family. Of course, we want to be with our loved ones, but we simply can’t make it work. Our negative internal dialogue (being mean to ourselves) about the situation may increase, making us feel worse in the interim. Feelings of missing out added to the mix, we’re left with a massive present of anger, sadness, sense of belonging to mediate on our own.
The holidays may be a rough time of year for you for multiple reasons, but that doesn’t mean you have to go into them alone or without a plan. If you are someone who struggles with the holidays and need extra support, please call The Center for Collaboration in Counseling and Psychiatry at (847) 444-2281.
Sydney Karon, M.A., LPC
Collaborative Counseling and Psychiatry