So who are you dreading seeing this holiday season? What person in your family are you going to be forced to be around, eat with, and even spend money on even though you really don’t want to? Is it a cousin that upset you because they forgot to wish you a happy birthday that makes your stomach turn? Or maybe it’s a sibling who always seems to rub it in your face during every family get-together about how much greater their life is than yours that makes you want to skip December 25th all together. There could be 500 people at your family gathering but you inevitably end up focusing on the one relative who has wronged you at some point in the past.
I used to get extremely upset at friends and family members who seemed to hold a pointless grudge against someone and who would let something I viewed as insignificant ruin their Christmas celebrations. I have a friend who takes Xanax before every family celebration to calm her anxiety about being around a cousin who didn’t return her favorite shoes. I have another friend who is upset with her sister about a Facebook post she didn’t agree with and is debating whether to buy her a gift or not. And I’ve had family members who have gone years without attending Christmas celebrations because something “wrong” was said over a decade ago at the dinner table.
“How can you get upset about something so silly?” I would exclaim. “Don’t you realize how lucky you are to have a family? Don’t you realize how much some people would give to have a family to be around during the holidays? You are acting like a child!” As a person with no family, no mother or father, no siblings or anyone else to celebrate the holidays with, the “petty” grudges that my friends held seemed like a complete waste of time in my eyes. After losing what I had lost in my life and remembering the hell I endured as a child, my friend needing to take Xanax over a pair of shoes seemed absolutely ridiculous.
But over the years I began to realize that their life wasn’t my life. We had experienced very different things during our lives and I couldn’t expect my friends to understand what it was like to be physically abused and abandoned just as they couldn’t expect me to understand what it was like to be angry at someone over a Facebook post. But the one thing we had in common was that someone we loved hurt us very much and we each had our own ways of dealing with the pain that person caused.
I understand that the holidays make it worse. It’s the time of year where everyone is supposed to get along, put past grudges aside and remember “The Reason for the Season”. However, we all know, that is much easier said than done. It’s easy to say it, watch movies about it, and read hundreds of articles about “Surviving the Holidays”, but when you are actually forced to confront your pain and fear and be around a person who deeply hurt you, it’s another story.
Your pain isn’t pointless and it isn’t something that should be written off and brushed aside, but for those of you dreading seeing a relative this holiday season, remember this. You survived whatever this person did to you; the world didn’t end and you are still here. You lived through the pain in your heart, the attack to your pride, and feeling of betrayal that coursed through your veins. You are not a weak person for having feelings and if you remember that, you can walk into your family gathering with your head held high. Show this person who hurt you that the experience made you grow and smile. Sometimes just a smile can make all of the difference.
Thinking of all of you this holiday season. Love yourself and the rest will follow.