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Memorial Day & Family: 5 Tips

It’s a day in which we remember the people who died serving this country in active military duty. For many of us, this includes family members.

For veterans and active-duty members of the military, it can be an emotional day of both pride and honor, and sadness. For nearly everyone, it’s a day of remembrance and gratitude.

Despite the serious nature of the day, it is also a day of picnics and cookouts, the start of the summer season, and parties. It is also a day of family get-togethers and all the emotions they can bring. It can be especially difficult to cope with family issues and the stress of Memorial Day get-togethers if you are also coping with depression, anxiety, or other emotional challenges.

Your goal may be to enjoy or at least minimize and cope with the triggers, stress, and conflict that may arise at family events. If your Memorial Day promises to be one of connection and joy, go for it. If not, and you’re worried, here are some suggestions for before and during the day that can make it less stressful.

  1. Squabbling or other tensions creating pressure for you at your family cookout in The Great Outdoors? The operative word in The Great Outdoors is…Great. Big. Large. If you’re in a park or on a large property, it’s easy to take a walk and get away alone or with a non-combative companion.
  2. Rain Plan: If it’s raining and you’re indoors, and you can’t deal with the fallout of leaving, diffuse family tension by suggesting activities that provide structure, such as board games. Before you arrive, find an ally who is interested in making sure that things go smoothly and have him or her second your motion to start a game.
  3. Arrive with an “inner plan.” Whether you use affirmations or visualizations or just simple key phrases that you repeat to yourself, such as: “Family has its ups and downs, and today I’m going to look for the ups” come prepared internally.
  4. Don’t dump and don’t get dumped on. If someone starts attacking, belittling or blaming you, let them know that you are not available to listen to this kind of talk. You can walk away if possible. But if this doesn’t work, calmly let them know that if they keep on attacking you, you will leave. Setting clear boundaries and limits will work in many situations. Calmly warning the person and then calmly leaving if the attacking behavior continues can radically alter the family dynamic as well as boost your self confidence.  (If this happens during a phone call, let them know you will hang up and then hanging up the phone is the way to go, exhibiting as much calm as possible.) And don’t dump! Don’t engage in this behavior yourself–even in response to someone else. See No Dumping Allowed for more insights.)
  5. Dealing with super-toxic family members such as narcissists? Are they still pushing your buttons after all these years? A quick fix is to arrive with a time limit. Make other plans, and explain when you arrive that you have other obligations today but since family comes first, you’re coming to see them first. Leave at the time you say you need to leave by; it’s important to stick to your plan if you’re feeling fragile.

We wish you a happy Memorial Day.


Memorial Day & Family: 5 Tips

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2018). Memorial Day & Family: 5 Tips. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 May 2018
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