Many people are marginalized by the holiday season. Some suffer from anxiety or depression. Some face backlash for not being Christian, or celebrating the more secular parts of the holidays. Some have been turned away by their families because of their sexuality or gender identity or because they love a person of the “wrong” color or faith. Some grew up severely disappointed every year because their family couldn’t afford the gifts they wanted, or they can’t afford the gifts their children want now. Some have lost loved ones around the holidays and can’t bear to face the memories brought on by the Christmas music and decorations in stores with which they are bombarded from November 1st through January 2nd.
This is for those who struggle during the holiday season. Those who have survived trauma or loss, those who are the black (or tie-dyed) sheep of the family who face ridicule and ignorance at the holiday table, those who don’t get to spend their holidays with their children because they have to work to protect us in the emergency rooms and on the streets or those who have to work to afford the presents they won’t get to see their children open, those whose families put more emphasis on the appearance and decor of the season than on spending time with their loved ones, and those who are so poor, they have to visit soup kitchens and shelters for safety and warmth with the possibility of a handout from an anonymous stranger.
If you are one of these people, please seek support. Nothing is worse than feeling alone, isolated, or separate in spite of all that the holiday season narrative promises. Self care is extremely important for everyone during this time. Some places offer support groups, and creative writing or arts and crafts groups to help process holiday-related grief. Seek out these programs, and find ways to reach out to others who struggle during the season. There are some self-care tips listed below that may be helpful as well.
There are many resources for folks who struggle with these things, and finding them can be as easy as using your search engine, but here are a few to get you started:
- Suicide Helpline (800) 273-8255
- Trans Lifeline (877) 565-8860
- Holiday Online Grief Support from Griefnet.org
- Your Holiday Mom Support for LGBTQ folks whose families have disowned or rejected them
- Tips for Secular Support during the Holiday Season
- Support for Military Families and Troops
For those who don’t struggle during the holiday season, here are a few ways you can help those who do:
- Support organizations such as those listed above.
- Adopt a family or an individual from your local hospice, homeless shelter, food bank, foster care, or nursing home and keep in touch with them after the holidays.
- Donate gifts of food, clothing, toys, and money for charities to those in need in the name of those you love in addition to or in lieu of presents for your loved ones who may not need much.
- Be sensitive to those who are struggling, even if you don’t agree with their lifestyle or beliefs. Save political discussions for another time.
- Don’t force those in your family who have suffered loss or trauma around the holidays to participate in festivities. If they are present and need to take some space, offer support, but let them tell you what they need. If you’re not sure, ask.
And finally, here are some general tips from NAMI for surviving Holiday Stress for all people: