Q I am thinking about the upcoming holidays. This has been a difficult year for me financially and I don’t feel like celebrating much. Although I was not raised with Christmas, my family has adopted a lot of the rituals, including the excessive shopping. It’s overwhelming this year, yet I don’t know how to get out of it.

A
This is a dilemma that is becoming more common. It is difficult to break out of family expectations around the holidays. Your feelings are worth acknowledging and communicating to your family. Challenging a family and cultural tradition is not easy. It threatens people because they have to face things that they may not be happy with. It’s easier to keep doing what you’ve always done.

Could you simply share with them that you’ve had a difficult year and the usual way of celebrating the holidays may add to the isolation and sadness? I wouldn’t be surprised if there are others in your family who feel the same. They may want to join you in creating another kind of ritual that has more meaning and helps everyone connect more deeply to each other. There are a lot of peace meditations and rituals that are meaningful and simple. Perhaps, you could all decrease buying gifts and collect money for those in need. What about creating a time where people share how this year has been for them and what they are grateful for? You may find some resistance at first, but if you create the space, family members will really appreciate it.

Q Recently my son told me that he will not be coming home for the holidays. I was shocked because for the last 10 years he has been with us. He said he has worked very hard and needs the time to rest. Additionally, he seems tired of the same rituals every year. I would really like him to be with us, but don’t want to force him.

A You are wise to not force him. Many people are having mixed feelings about celebrating the holidays in the usual ways this year. How about taking some time and talking with your son about his year and the hard work he has had to do. Find out how he would like to spend his holiday and what he needs. You can certainly share that you’ll miss him and that it will be hard for you that he won’t be there.

Whenever children separate from parents there is a feeling of loss, especially for the parents. You are probably quite attached to him. Letting go and giving space is just as important as attaching and being close. This allows him to fulfill other needs that may arise and may encourage you to expand your family to invite other people you would enjoy getting to know better.

Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. www.wholenesstherapy.com
Share this: