Guess who’s not coming to dinner?

For many, this is a family-oriented time of year that focuses on togetherness and celebrating winter holidays with loved ones. For those who have lost someone or are alienated from their family members, it can be a difficult time of year. Even if you spend time with your family, there may be things that they do that annoy you, hurt you, or make you wish they didn’t come over at all. Here are some ideas for making this time easier emotionally.

In the case of people who are annoyed by their family members or don’t feel a close connection with them, I like to think of reframing the person’s behavior from a broader perspective. What I mean by this is that while the person may do someone that you find obnoxious, they might have a reason for that behavior that you’re not aware of, and that behavior may be a reflection of pain coming from them. It may be a reaction to something you’re doing that hurts or annoys them. If you can, it might be good to take them aside and gently tell them that what they’re doing is hurting you, or ask them if there is something wrong between you so that you can clarify what you’re perceiving. Of course, the situation’s particulars dictate how you respond. but assuming that you want to keep the relationship going on a positive note, I think it’s best to give the person a chance and hear what they have to say. Hopefully you can have a productive dialogue about it and come to an understanding or resolution of the matter.

Another approach is to accept that the person is likely not going to change or hear what you have to say, and focus on enjoying the people at the gathering whom you do enjoy. When you find yourself getting annoyed by the person, try to remember that unless they are directly offending YOU, there’s no need to intervene or get caught up in their unpleasantness.

If you are without family members or alienated from them, I think it’s a good idea to balance honoring your feelings of grief while still trying to do something that pleases you on those holidays. What can do you that will give you a sense of peace, togetherness or joy? Do you have a friend you can spend the day with, or would it be fulfilling to volunteer time at a soup kitchen? Take that energy spent feeling sad and disconnected, and use it to make someone else feel good. If nothing else, get out of the house and your jammies, and see the day. I think that this prevents people from feeling further isolated and sad.

There are many more ways to handle these situations, I’m sure, but these are just a few starters. I hope they help you and you have a fantastic holiday season!

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