How to Make the Holidays Feel Good

holiday joy

When holidays are approaching, tension is often approaching with them. Emotions run high – whether with happy anticipation or with angst.

Couples’ relationships that are on the edge become even more so and sometimes resolve with separation and/or divorce after the holidays end. What is it that makes holidays so laden with pain, anger, false hope for some, and pleasure and joy for others?

Holidays are often markers of past abusive relationships, homes filled with hatred, alcohol, betrayals. We grow up with those memories and they show up in our viscera as each holiday of our grown up years approaches.

Perhaps some of those unhappy relationships have remained troublesome, even toxic. Sometimes, it’s the memories that keep us from honoring the pleasure and joy of others who love the holidays or who want to create new memories for themselves and their families.

There are homes filled with deep sorrow as they grieve the recent loss of someone dear. As the years pass it seems there is yet another empty chair at the table where once a vibrant family member sat. Make a toast in memory of that person and then one to those who are still here! This may be the last holiday for someone with a terminal illness. Make it special for them. Share happy memories of them. Rejoice for the time they are still with you.

Imperfect holiday situations create difficult challenges. This time of year couples come to my office with their stories and their resentments towards each other. Money issues are often high on the list. Typically someone is hurting and anxious because their partner is still holding grudges or on-going battles with members of either family. In such a situation, one partner doesn’t want to be there which leaves the other angry and embarrassed because the family will be aware of the absence. The children will feel a loss of that parent or uncomfortable if the parent is there and acts out their negative feelings. The legacy will be – the children will have less than happy memories of their own holidays.

Listen to your partner’s story. Try to empathize with them and then encourage the resistant one to co-create new memories. Together plan ways to make it more enjoyable. Commit to being pleasant regardless of how someone else shows up. We are each totally responsible for our own behavior.

Make it a different experience – a joyful one for you and those you do love.
Consider it a “gift” given to the one who longs for a happy time this year. When we give gifts like that to the people we love, we end up feeling good about ourselves. We have elevated ourselves for a greater good.

So for the person who doesn’t want to face another holiday, set your intention and be “mindful” of what it will mean to the people you care about. Remember that we are the models for our own children. What memories will they will carry into their futures? Create new moments instead of reacting to old ones. Create what you wish had been your experience, and do it for those you love.
If it feels impossible to rise above your own pain, speak with someone to help you sort out and resolve your feelings. Perhaps this will be the year you let go and feel your own aliveness and joy for what you do have.

Happy Holidays!

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About Paula Susan

Paula Susan, MSW, LCSW, Masters in Clinical Social Work & Psychology; specialist in Trauma and Relationships since 1982. In 1991, I integrated the powerfully transformative process of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Research demonstrates that it facilitates life-altering changes more efficiently and effectively than talk therapy alone. I teach skills such as communication and anxiety relief to improve connection with others. Over the decades, I’ve come to respect how much damage even small traumatic experiences inflict on our core beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. I consider it a privilege to help my clients understand and change what has undermined their happiness and their relationships. I do it with warmth, integrity, humor, and profound respect for those who care about the quality of this small piece of time we have on

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