What to do when the holidays suck

November 29th, 2011

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (insert holiday tunes here)… unless you have experienced loss, trauma, neglect, moved suddenly, lost a job, separated, or divorced, experienced physical illness, volatile behaviors of a family member, substance abusing behaviors of a loved one, or mental illness.

So what happens when you or your child experiences losses and changes beyond your control and the holiday season arrives? Everyone appears so jolly and excited, and your experiences have left you feeling like you want to curl up and hibernate through the holiday season.

Here are 7 ways to honor yourself and help your child transition through difficult times during the holidays:

1.              Allow yourself  to express your feelings- You may feel like you don’t want to be a downer at the holiday party when people ask you how you’re doing, so you put on a happy face and pretend everything is okay, and reply “I’m fine”. Yes, opening up your emotional floodgates at a party may not be the best way to communicate your feelings; however, you can honor yourself, and your feelings and let others know “it’s been a difficult time”. Model this behavior with your children, so they know that they don’t have to mask their feelings and pretend to be happy in order to make others feel okay.

2.               Listen to yourself- Take time to hear and listen to what you need. That may mean saying no thank you to invitations and spending an evening at home reading a book. You may need to quite down the busyness in order to hear what you need. You can use the art making process to ask yourself what you need right now, and then allow yourself to express that through the art. Art making can help your child to become quite and connect with their inner voice so they can honor their needs too.

3.             Find ways to honor your loss- Put together a photo album honoring memories, create a memory box, use glass paint and paint a glass candleholder in honor of your experiences. Take time to be with your feelings and help your child find ways to honor and express their grief and loss.

4.              Create a new story- Grief and losses often involve letting go of how things used to be. Take the time to acknowledge and honor what was, and then look at how you choose to create a new story. Get creative with a blank journal or art paper and create images and words of what you are welcoming into your life.

5.              Seek out support- Being alone in your pain often amplifies the feelings of being disconnected and unsupported. Find close friends, support groups, or a therapist to help you during difficult times.  You will go through a period of “new normal” where things will never be as they were before; surrounding yourself with support will help you and your child navigate this transition.

6.              Let go of other people’s stuff- When you are honest with your feelings or when problems arise in your home good intentioned family and friends may jump in to offer unsolicited advice or comments. Realize that their response is their stuff; perhaps they feel uncomfortable, or they want you to feel better, and move on, or they want to fix it. Thank them for their concern, and let them know what you need, “sometimes I just need talk things through, or someone to just listen, or I just need to express that I feel upset”.  If they are unable to support you in the way you would like or continue to give unsolicited advice let them know how you feel and seek out support from those who will respect your process.

7.              Be gentle with yourself- You may want to push through the pain or you may become overly critical of yourself and others. Model being kind with yourself and teach your children to be compassionate with their own feelings and behaviors, this will be a life-long gift you will share with your child.

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