For many who are being shunned by family because of religion, or don't know how to feel about the holidays this is not the most wonderful time of the year; it can be more like the most dreadful time of the year. Just remember, you don't have to follow their rules. You don't have to stay home by yourself feeling miserable, or spend the day thinking about them, or even jump in and celebrate in any particular way. You can make this holiday, and this time of year, anything you want it to be.
You can make new traditions of your own, and spend time with people who you love, but you will have to let go of the rules in your head. Let go of rigid thinking that says, I have to be with family, or I have to celebrate like everyone else does. Let go of any judgements you may have been taught. Instead of self-isolating, adopt new thoughts. This is a time of year our culture chooses to show generosity and love.
Here are some suggestions for starting new traditions. Volunteer to cook or deliver meals to those who are less fortunate or shut in. Bringing joy to others, will take your mind off of your loss, and will bring a sense of gratitude for the blessings you enjoy.
Instead of being alone, play the role of host. Invite others over who are orphaned today, single people, the elderly, international students, etc. Have a potluck, play board games,or watch football. You may find your best memories are made with a ragamuffin group, doing laid back things. If you cannot play host, see if you can join one trusted friend or family.
Your new tradition could be to go out to the movies with a friend or two. Afterwards find a place that is open and eat together. Then tip big. Share in the joy of the day, and show appreciation for those who are serving you.
Let go of rules about decorating or not decorating, gift giving or not gift giving, and do what feels right to you. Give the gifts you want to, wrapped the way you want. Call the people you want to talk to. You can also skip the phone calls and gifts. It’s up to you.
If you are inclined to worship as part of the holiday, going to a service with a friend can be a great way to add a new sense of wonder. The high ritual of a midnight mass can be like no other. If you do not like it, there's always a new place to explore next year. You can observe without joining a new group.
The point is, there are hundreds of right ways to approach the holiday season. Holidays are about traditions, and you can make traditions of your own that make you feel good. You do not have to feel bad or be alone. The group that spiritually abused you may want you to feel alone and full of conflict; that is part of the control. But you can refuse to go along. Just because the group punishes people who change or leave, it doesn’t mean you have to accept it.
Above all, please remember, you are not alone. There are a multitude of people who are going through this same thing. You are not the only one. Reach out to others today. And whether you celebrate this season or not, you are in charge. Whatever challenges you face today, keep them in perspective. This too shall pass.
My blogs take on all topics related to recovery, including commentary on the intersection of spiritual abuse and current events.
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