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Holiday Celebrations During Times of Transition

Holidays are all about celebration, gathering with family and friends and traditions. Yet, when we are going through life-transitions, holidays can remind us painfully about what is changed and what…or who is missing. Some of those transition times are: children leaving home and starting their own families, separation and divorce, moving away from loved ones or grieving the loss of a loved one. During these times, the holidays can feel complicated and can cause stress and anxiety. Recognizing that this is normal is the first step in coping with the challenges that the holiday season presents. I canvassed the counselling team for ideas about how to cope with these life transitions over the holidays. These are the suggestions:

  • Practice good self-care over the holiday and don’t get caught up in the “shoulds” that we and our well-meaning family members and friends can pressure us with.
  • Don’t over-extend yourself emotionally or financially. You will resent it after the holiday.
  • Be intentional about change. Decide what traditions you love and want to keep and what you can let go of. If you have children, make them a part of these decisions.
  • Discuss the changes with your family and friends well ahead of time to avoid expectations and pressure.
  • Teach children the joy of giving by having them bring gifts or do nice things for others.
  • Keep up or take up self-care during the holidays: healthy diet, exercise, yoga, meditation to stay healthy and increase ability to cope.
  • Know that it is right and healthy for you to move forward by making changes.
  • Let go of the “ideal holiday traditions” and be realistic about what you can do.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • If you can’t handle Christmas carols or traditional Christmas movies this year because you feel sad and vulnerable, give yourself permission to avoid them.
  • Negotiate holidays with your family members ahead of time. Remember, you don’t have to celebrate on the actual day. If family members are with in-laws on the 25th, have your celebration on the 28th.
  • In the case of separation and divorce, don’t let kids get caught in the middle of arguments over holiday time with kids. Again, celebrate with them on the day that you have them without resentments that overflow to the children.
  • If you find yourself alone on the holidays, look for other people who are also alone and celebrate together. Create something fun and new.
  • Spend time giving to others less fortunate over the holidays; take part in a gift drive or volunteer at a soup kitchen.
  • Focus on the deeper meaning of the holiday and connect with your spiritual traditions.
  • Be okay with letting go of what was and creating new traditions to take into the future.