Tips for Surviving the Holidays for Anyone in Emotional Pain

In our support group we talked about how the holidays can be hard for us hurting parents. Our hearts are full of pain and sadness over our child’s destructive choices (alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, self harm, eating disorders, in trouble with the law, etc.).  Some suffer from mental illness but refuse help, or sporadically quit taking their meds. That only leads to more trauma.

We wish we could skip the holidays, or just hurry up and have them be over. We certainly don’t feel very thankful or festive.  All we can think about is what we are unhappy and upset about regarding our child; how God hasn’t answered our prayers yet; how weary and worn out we are with the journey; how it feels like this will never end.  We asked ourselves the question, “On a scale of 1 (being fine, no stress) to 10 (really hard, super stressful) how hard, anxious or stressful will this holiday season be for us”?   Take a few minutes and think about that now as you read this.   Why did you pick the number you did?

In the Bible we are encouraged to give thanks over and over again.  A few verses I really like are:

Philippians 4:6-7  6” Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (The remedy for stress and anxiety is praying while being thankful.  In doing that we will find God’s peace.)

I Thessalonians 5:17  “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”   (Not FOR the circumstance, but in it.  This requires trusting God with whatever he is allowing to happen in our lives.  Not easy, but he can show us how.  I can be thankful he is in it with me.)

Habakkuk 3:17-19  “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (even though things look really bad, I can still give thanks IN THE LORD) 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”

I love these verses.  We took some time to look more closely at them and concluded that . . . God does not want us to be anxious or stressed.  He knows we struggle with this in our humanness.  He has provided a remedy. When we focus on him in stressful times and still choose to be thankful, He will give us His peace and His presence. He will even give us joy. I need that this time of year, don’t you?

Here are 5 Tips for Surviving the Holidays:

1) Adjust or lower your expectations – this will help you be content with how ever it turns out.  Maybe your child will be pleasant or maybe not; maybe they will call, or maybe not; maybe you will see them or maybe not . . . .

2) Consider doing things differently this year – maybe your former traditions will just make you more sad or be too difficult to do in light of your situation

3) Avoid social media – hearing about others happy homecomings and family gatherings can make me feel worse if I don’t have that

4) Focus on others – look for a way to help someone else who has a need, is hurting or lonely

5) Be grateful – keep giving thanks no matter how you feel; start a “thanksgiving or gratitude journal” (it can be for the smallest thing – something you saw or heard, not just big things).

A friend has been encouraging me to read the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  When she was going through a rough time, feeling depressed, someone challenged her to see if she could make a list of 1,000 things she was thankful for.  Well, this sent her on a journey that ended up changing her life.  I plan on getting the book for my birthday that’s coming up soon.  Can’t wait to read it.  You can get it through Amazon for about $10.

I hope those of you who will be reading this will be able to have a meaningful Thanksgiving tomorrow, full of gratitude for God’s many blessings in your life, in spite of whatever is happening with your child .  Ask God to help you be a “thanks-giver” no matter what is happening.  We truly have so much to be thankful for!  Right now I am thankful for music and that I am able to hear it!  It calms and uplifts my heart so much!