When someone close to us is having a tough time during the holiday season due to lost loved ones or family conflict, it can add to our own stress or make us freeze because we don’t know the right thing to do. Sometimes there is no perfect “right” thing and everyone is different.
✨ 1. Tend to yourself first.
Remember the cliche of putting on your own oxygen mask first? It’s a cliche for a reason. Don’t use someone else’s struggles as a distraction from your own. Decide how you will address your feelings and needs surrounding the holidays, as well as your own limits and boundaries around time and emotional support.
✨ 2. Be careful with the “what do you need?” questions.
A lot of times people don’t know what they need. If they do, they may feel weird asking about it. Acknowledging their feelings and giving a choice may make it easier for them to express a need. Something like, “I’m aware you’re hurting and this time of year is so hard. I want to support you-- what would be best? I can wrap gifts for you, we can go to a movie, or I can just come visit and talk.”
Giving an array of choices depending on what would be appropriate for that person invites them to make a decision and lets you know what would be the most helpful. The person may even thank you and offer another idea. Whichever, it alleviates the awkwardness that can come with that question.
✨3. Let them know you’re there without hovering
Just let them know you are around and up for grabbing a cup of coffee, or even a quick chat should they feel the need. After you’ve addressed #2, leave the door open for future requests by just letting them know you are there if they need you.
✨4. Suggest an activity that has nothing to do with the holidays
If you’re not available as much as you’d like, suggest a get-together in the future having nothing to do with the holidays. Let’s go see a movie, have dinner, go bowling, etc. While it is a distraction, it also gets them out and reminds them that there are things to enjoy in life, there are people who care about them, and provides relief through laughter.
✨ Bonus #5: Let go of your idea of how others should "celebrate."
Everyone has feelings about the holidays that can be complicated: nostalgia, grief, joy, anger, excitement, etc.
It's so hard when another's mood can influence your own if you spend time together over the holidays, and it's natural to want to be a helper. We just can't control others' feelings or take away their pain. Thus why #1 is about tending to yourself first. If this is tempting for you, be mindful of your own needs and boundaries.
If the holidays in general are a stressful time, grab your free holiday survival guide here 👇