The holiday season is back! And it’s crazy, fast, and rushed; multiple weeks with too many calories and not enough free time to complete your tasks.
Many of us are warmed and thrilled by the sound of holiday carols and the decorations coming back after months of hibernation. Many of us spoil ourselves with treats and shopping for goodies we tried to resist all year long. Many of us will spend more time with family members or pick up our friends for long-needed quality time. It’s time for traditions, decorating, making a wish list (although, as an adult, the list is ten times more boring than the list you made as a child). Anyone still asking for a pet dolphin?
Many of us are ecstatic for the excuse to buy a new outfit, attend shows and parties and use up all of our stored energy in one extroverted display of a single season! Many of us will be eager for the magical season to come. But, many of us will feel more distraught and anxious, just because it’s that time of year again.
As a social worker, I hear a lot of stories from individuals; stories of abuse, loss, change and grief. For a season that intensifies and magnifies the value of family and happiness, this can be the most challenging and difficult season of the year. It may have been last Christmas that a couple lost a child to a physical aliment. It may have been last New Year’s when a mother of 3 moved to protect herself, and she’s missing familiar traditions and a sense of “home.” It may have been a holiday season several years ago that someone was in a traumatizing car accident and their progress and recovery is put in the spotlight in it’s anniversary season.
As a social worker, I know that the holidays are touchy for another layer of reasons: family reunification. For some, spending more time near abusive family members that they otherwise avoid is so distressing and traumatizing, they find the holidays to be the scariest time of the year. Relatives that caused deep harm are now in the same room as you, laughing and talking. People that caused tremendous hurt make a temporary but vivid appearance in the next several weeks.
Many of us are eager for the magical season to come.
And many of us will call our counselors or our supports, dreading what’s to come. The music and glamour that triggers the memory of a tragedy, making errand runs emotional to complete. There might be dread for the family-get-together, drenched in flashbacks, emotional pain and fear.
So for many, it’s a season weighted with complexity, conflicting feelings and a huge, aching reminder of loss. If you can imagine, or know what sort of holiday pain I’m referring to, please remember to be gentle with others. Please respect people’s wishes for personal time. Please be patient with the shoppers around you and the co-workers beside you. Give more generously of yourself to the ones who have felt the most change. Many of us are eager. Let us not forget the ones who are healing.