NAMI Washtenaw County
Every person views the holidays in different ways. For some, they are an exciting time to celebrate with family or friends, and for others they are challenging, whether due to losses or the holidays being a reminder of past or present struggles. Each of our Lend a Hand group members has decided to share their personal experience during the holidays, with some suggestions on ways of coping that currently work for us.
Adam: Holidays for me are a weird time for a multitude of reasons. Growing up in Egypt, I was surrounded by mostly Coptic Christians who celebrate Christmas on January 7th. That never stopped people from having Christmas trees everywhere around December 25th. Going to college in Dubai, which is a strict Islamic country, I found everyone celebrating Christmas in the most ostentatious way possible. The holiday is very commercialized there. Additionally, my birthday falls on December 20th so my presents were always combined.
I don’t necessarily celebrate the holidays, but I find myself surrounded by people who do even if their beliefs are not aligned with what the holidays are about. Holidays for me are a weird time because I don’t understand them at all. Some people feel joy. Some people feel sadness. Some people feel nothing at all, and I don’t know where I fall in that.
One thing I do love is starting my own ritual in 2019, and that’s dog-sitting the cutest old puppy named Pita. She has my whole heart.
Stephanie: Holidays have been difficult for me since my Mom’s passing. However, writing her out a card every year I find to be helpful and therapeutic. Doing this makes me feel more connected with her. I also enjoy making a list of what I am grateful for. Many people, myself included, have a tendency to think about what’s going wrong and what we don’t have, as opposed to what is going right and what we do have.
A powerful saying that has been helpful to me through my journey is by well known author and motivational speaker, Wayne Dyer: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” I also try to remind myself what a friend once told me, “The struggle is part of the story.”
Mike: I enjoy the holidays. I visit family and have a nice get-together. I get to see my brother and his family. Making connections with my family over the holidays is always enjoyable for me.
Alayna: Before the pandemic I used to visit with family and friends during the holidays. Now during the pandemic, I am unable to see them in person so it has been very important to keep communication with my friends and family through the telephone and Zoom so that I am not isolated.
Sandy: For me the holidays are overstimulating and bring on feelings of panic and grief. I prefer celebrating the season on my own. Holidays were stressful times as my parents were divorced and I was an only child. This time of year was chaotic and distressing as I was always trying to keep my parents from arguing. I feel much better making my own “personalized” holiday plans.
A favorite activity for several years has been caring for my neighbor Nancy’s cat when she is on vacation. I check on Lodi twice a day and Lodi and I sometimes watch TV together. I smile when he joins me on the sofa and sits in my lap. I feel I am giving my neighbor a gift in caring for Lodi and I receive a gift in return as I don’t have a pet. Lodi is a fine feline companion for the holidays.
Barb: Having traditions has been helpful to me for celebrating the holidays. Before the pandemic and after my parents died, I started a new tradition. Every year I bake cinnamon buns and put them in wearable socks along with other goodies to give to my family members when we meet to go to a movie. Last year I put everyone’s socks in the mail. This year I hope to see everyone in person.
Having a predictable recurring tradition is comforting and grounding. Connecting with others can contribute to our well-being and bring joy and peace of mind.
Tracy: Before I had my own family, Christmas was bittersweet for me. I had a brother Danny, who was killed with his childhood best friend when they were 18. I was 15 and we were very close. All we had was each other as we grew up in the country.
My father was a raging alcoholic and you never knew what could set him off. We were raised pretty strict. I always envied those kids that got to wake up at noon on the weekends and watch cartoons and play. We worked. If it was winter, we loaded wood. If it was summer, we had to take care of the yard. I was raised in a “kids are meant to be seen and not heard” atmosphere. My mother was very quiet and distant. Now we are the best of friends but this woman now is NOT the woman that raised me.
I would see my father’s side of the family once a year at Christmas. My mother’s family all lived down south. We saw them once a year. Both sets of grandparents lived in Florida. I don’t know any of my family on either side. I don’t remember that many to be honest. I do remember decorating the tree with my brother and those are fond memories.
When my parents got divorced when I was 10, everything changed. And not for the better. I vowed that when I had children, I would make the holidays the best times of their lives and full of happy memories.
About 3 years before my son was born in 1995, I accidentally created a “tradition” that we still observe every Christmas Eve. I have a huge gathering of family and friends with a feast fit for a king. Tons of laughs, silliness and LOVE. The first time I EVER missed a year was when the pandemic hit and I got COVID in December (before they had a name for it.)
Even after I divorced my children’s dad, I continued the tradition. I must have my kids on Christmas Eve and they have to wake up at my house on Christmas. Thankfully, my ex understands this.
I hope I have made a lasting impression on my children, full of only fond and fun memories. I try to treat every holiday like that with them. But my Christmas Eve gathering is a day I hope they carry on when they have their own families. I can’t wait for a ton of grandkids surrounding me. Sounds like heaven.
Jadan: I love the holidays! My family and I are really close, and we usually bake cookies, play games and just joke around all throughout the holidays. I am very grateful to be able to spend time with them every year and allow our relationships to grow.
We can find our own holiday traditions, whether it be alone or with others. The key is to find things to be grateful for and seek peace and joy in whatever form they take. We need to care for ourselves. Every story is unique, and we all are trying to find what means the most to us during the holidays.
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