The holidays are coming up fast. Family and friends loom at the door. Yet the holidays sometimes mean that we are not going to be happy. We are reminded of family fights, lost friends, other painful issues. Are there some ways to get through the holidays without feeling depressed?
Let me start off with a comic note, pun intended. Sally Forth, in the comic strip of the same name, is currently struggling about how to handle Thanksgiving. She is in the middle of inviting her domineering and insensitive mother—and her mother’s much younger boyfriend–to the event. So far, Sally has decided not to invite her younger flakey sister, who happens to be dating Sally’s patronizing and piggish ex-boss. Stay tuned to what happens next!
Meanwhile, in the real world, we have all sorts of expectations for the holidays. Hurts will be healed, families brought together, friends reunited, and personal transformations accomplished. TV specials and movies tell us these stories endlessly and even bring this message to us in midsummer, with special days of Christmas in July. We will all be better, happier, and no longer lonely.
Yet that is not necessarily true. Some family fights can’t be addressed that easily, and hurts cannot be healed in one night. Some friendships need lots of work to repair. Some losses can’t be erased and some loneliness can’t be made to disappear.
So, what can you do? The first task is to be mature enough to recognize that most of the time magic doesn’t happen on your personal timeline. So, don’t provoke unnecessary fights and recriminations. Sometimes you should minimize losses and decide what you can handle.
The second task is to be smart enough to figure out that it takes a while to heal or reunite. So, make the effort earlier, start the process before, reach out before the holidays come.
The third task is to be wise enough not to lay many expectations on the holidays. Getting through without major damage may be enough.
Lastly, the fourth task is to be strong enough to know if you feel lonely or vulnerable. That means asking for help. It may mean asking to join someone safe at their holidays or volunteering at a homeless shelter. There is no shame in that. It is far worse, emotionally, to be sitting at home, eating a frozen TV dinner and watching TV alone.