While the holiday season is often known for its cultural significance of tradition with family and creating fun memories, it can also be a painful reminder of trauma, grief/ loss, and overall family dysfunction. Even if you consider yourself to be lucky to have grown up in an “intact” family or “loving” household, celebrating with family can be stressful.
It can be hard to say no to family without feeling guilty. You may find yourself taking on more than you feel comfortable with out of obligation, only to find yourself feeling frustrated, anxious, irritated, disappointed, or depressed.
Just because you are family does not mean that you share the same views on things like COVID, religious beliefs, political views, and values. Awkward, inappropriate questions and microaggressions only make things worse. Generational gaps often come into play. It can be hard to enjoy each other’s company when time and energy is spent avoiding interactions or managing emotional reactions.
Spending time with family during the holidays can be a trigger to a painful past, as being around people, places, conversations, and activities associated with trauma may bring up distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings.
Physical separation often impacts families who may not be able to celebrate together due to living out of state or out of the country. Physical mobility, lack of transportation, and financial stressors are also barriers.
For these and many other reasons, many individuals are choosing to celebrate the holidays by gathering with friends. One popular American holiday that blends giving thanks by celebrating with friends is “Friendsgiving”.
This can be a low-stress, safer, and more accessible option this holiday season.
Whether you choose to celebrate and spend time with family, friends, and a combination of both, take time to give thanks to those who have made a significant impact in your life (even is this falls outside the traditional roles). Who knows, you may find yourself creating new memories by sharing food, drink, and laughter with those who you enjoy being with the most!
Written By : Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC
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