Holiday Blues Are Common Post Family Gatherings

Holiday Blues Are Common Post Family Gatherings December 29, 2018
As a counselor who’s been in private practice for almost a decade now, I have observed that human relationships are full of challenges. The wounds from childhood and family members are often long-lasting, affecting our adult relationships, ability to function at work or connect with the neighbors, even our parenting journey. And since no one is God or raised by God, no one is spared from relationship struggles. Holiday blues are common after large family gatherings.

Holidays are times often filled with good food, best behaviors, generous spirits, and heartfelt reunions. Yet for many, after the supposed joyous family celebrations comes the usual slump. I’m reminded of a funny quote on a festive dish that my co-worker once brought to the office: “I’ll be home for Christmas, and in therapy after that!”

Holiday Blues
If your holiday celebrations are without tension, conflicts, or ugly turmoil, then I’m happy for you. Life is too short to be in constant drama and misery. Let us drink to joy, love, peace, and goodwill among mankind! Chances are that for most of us, the gathering of family and extended family over an extended period of time can bring about unpleasant memories, unresolved conflicts, or some level of superficial interaction filled with anxiety. If you find yourself in this camp, fret not for word on the street says that you are actually in the norm.

Over the years, I have either personally experienced or known of friends or clients who get depressed just thinking of their life and family relationships. The picture-perfect outsides, the good stories and simple narratives that we usually tell do not come close to revealing the whole bad and ugly truth.

Yet, is the solution to our complex, pervasive relationship problems to publicize private woes all over the blogosphere or social media? Maybe reality TV and viral YouTube videos, coupled with some sensational marketing gimmicks, are reasonable outlets to integrate brutal truths with entertainment since these avenues can simultaneously pay the bills. But just because everyone has dirty laundry doesn’t mean that they should be aired publicly or shamelessly.

Perhaps giving a peek or two will suffice to help lessen the burden that our beloved friends and family carry? Maybe, by being a little more authentic about our struggles, our shame, and our deep, dark secrets, someone can be encouraged? Through normalization of problems, validation of emotions, and processing of thoughts, we might gain (or provide) the insight or inspiration to overcome.

I’m not one to readily share vulnerably, so I understand why people have a public persona and a private life. Politicians and public figures do it all the time. But most Americans are not in that category of lifestyle, and yet, we still struggle with living an authentic, joyful life.

With the advent of mobile internet and mass media, the line between personal/private and professional/business life gets blurred. It becomes increasingly clearer that people need to practice discernment or they get swept up by the superficial, materialistic, fast-paced tide of mindless consumerism. What we see and hear affects us deeply. If all that we are exposed to are pleasant stories or happy pictures of joy-filled people enjoying themselves all the time (and I’m just as guilty of sharing these as anyone else), then it’s no wonder that we struggle with feeling discontented, dissatisfied, or even hopeless. We know that our lives do not measure up to what we see and hear from the Jones.

Annual income and lifestyles vary from person to person. Some matters in this twenty-first century human society still are not fair, beautiful, or just. But I am reminded that God did not die on the cross for His image bearers to experience paradise on Earth. The truth is that every single individual, no matter their group affiliation or demographics, suffers relationship woes at one time or another. This suffering is real, significant, and can be debilitating. 

Apart from the Almighty and Jesus’ work on the cross, there seems to be little meaning to this chaotic, unpredictable life. It’s hard to make sense of mean, threatening adults (especially when they are known to be redeemed Christ followers). It’s hard to understand how people can continue to behave so dysfunctionally year after year, no matter how old they get. Perhaps worse is when we are not able to heal from our own deep soulful wounds, swallow our pride and apologize for wrongdoings, receive forgiveness of sins, or extend forgiveness without someone first making an effort to be vulnerable. Is there a way that we can keep ourselves from not sinking into the abyss of despair and temptation apart from turning to Christ daily?

What about you—does your spiritual faith help you to overcome perpetual anger or miserable situations? Besides setting healthy, firm limits and lots of prayers for mercy and grace, what do you think can help?

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