Dysfunctional Families / Friends and the Holidays
I have a surprise for you – we are all dysfunctional in one way or another and if we accept this with a sense of humor we may just survive the holidays with our sanity intact.
For many people, we require the skill of a master navigator to sail through family get-togethers without someone’s feelings getting hurt. Before you set sail here are some strategies for staying out of sticky situations:
Let it go – most of us go home for the holidays just wanting to get it over with. The hope that our families will act perfectly sets us up for disappointment. Before you go take a few moments to sit quietly and acknowledge that they are all different in their own ways and be prepared to accept them as they are.
Set boundaries – Once you set limits as to how much time you spend and with who, you will feel safe and even more enthusiastic for that “great aunts” visit. After all what is one hour out of your holiday if it keeps everyone happy.
Give up control – Any attempt you make to control what others say actually puts you under their control. Don’t argue, try to explain or force them to approve of your appearance or life style. They will not hear what you are saying and you’ll never, ever control their real thoughts and feelings. Feel what you feel, know who you are and set your relatives free to do the same. Whatever the situation accept that you can only control yourself and give up trying to control others.
Become a “participant observer” – use this technique to watch and report on whatever is going on. Become absolutely fascinated by what you are observing as if you had to report it later to someone you trust. Watch closely and see your family’s behavior with a sense of humor – it may be good for some comedy material next time you visit your best friend.
All these strategies are designed to help you love your family unconditionally, with genuine affection so that you can walk away with happy memories of the people you cherish the most.
Christmas is hard for us widows. It’s been fifteen years for me and I still find the holidays difficult without my husband. But I have learned that life isn’t a “Hallmark movie” and that everyone has their share of dysfunctional family members and friends. The important thing is to relax and enjoy what you can and to let the rest pass you by. It’s the season to find some peace and that is my hope for all of us widows.
Mary Francis, The Sisterhood of Widows
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