Did that question give you a sudden feeling of nervousness, dread or even panic? While many people anticipate shopping for loved ones and either hosting or planning a get together with family, some who may not live locally, other people have less positive thoughts and feelings about the upcoming family centered holidays. I believe there are no right or wrong ways to feel, but that it is important to be self aware of our own feelings.
This time of year often has a negative impact on people who have had stressful past family experiences especially those that are considered traumatic childhood events such as parents divorcing, one parent dying or being physically or emotionally abused or neglected. Can you imagine having to pretend to be happy coming home or inviting a family member to your home who had abused or neglected you as a child? That is often the type or re-trauma my therapy clients encounter.
Even professional caretakers such as nurses are not immune from anticipating dealing with a challenging family member or figuring there will be trouble when two people who dislike each otheróintenselyóare coming for a holiday gathering. Wouldnít you love imagining the probable trouble that could occur for example if two uncles who argue about anything and everything will be together for several hours? I guess they wouldnít help create the Christmas Card warm, fuzzy family picture would they?
First Steps to Preplan for a Potentially Stressful Time of Year:
1. Take an honest look within. Ask yourself how happy or nervous you feel about holidays.
2. If you feel a sense of dread go deeper and ask yourself if it could be due to old memories you fear might either come up or that negative experiences may repeat themselves?
3. Can you minimize potential problems with family, by having two groups get together separately? In my family some members came to my brotherís house for a Christmas Eve celebration, while relatives of my sister and some of us who got along well with them would meet at my sisterís house for Christmas Day dinner. Notice I got to celebrate twice when I lived in Chicago!
4. If you are not able to get together with your family ask yourself what else could you do to help prevent feeling lonely?
5. Sometimes "surrogate" family can help make the holidays more enjoyable if you arenít able to see your natural family. In my town some of the churches cook wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and the community is invited for free. I am lucky enough to be able to afford a trip to Chicago to see family and good friends over the Thanksgiving holiday, but for Christmas now I often go with some neighbor friends to the
bountiful church turkey dinner.
Preplanning for the holidays can help them be less stressful and maybe even more enjoyable experiences!