Why the Holiday Season May Be a Difficult Time

It’s that time of year when we deck the halls, jingle the bells and have a holly, jolly holiday with family and loved ones.

From Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Years and more, for many families and friends this is the time of year where we gather and spend time together, exchange gifts and create memories.

The holidays are often referred to as the annual celebrations of a variety of different cultural traditions during the winter time.

While there is no doubt that there is a sense of joy that can come from this season, there often isn’t space to share how the holidays can also be a time of stress, tension and even remembering traumatic events.

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Photo by Dana Tentis on

This blog will reflect on why the holidays may not always be the happiest time of the year for everyone and how we can turn down the judgement when someone is just not excited when the holidays roll around.

The holidays can be difficult for folks not in relationships or estranged from their family.

It goes to be said that many families (most with loving intentions) put pressure on the single, divorced and childless adult members of the family. Being that we typically are spending more time with our families during the holidays, it can be difficult for folks who are in transition or who have made choices for their immediate family to be passively judged and regularly questioned during the holidays. Be sure to pause before you jump into an interrogation with your cousin about why she hasn’t had children yet or why he hasn’t brought a “special somebody” home.

Be mindful of making assumptions in professional environments when discussing holiday plans. Everyone has a different relationship with their families, if they have a relationship at all. Everyone does not “go home” for the holidays, and that’s okay.

The holidays can be difficult for families coping with abuse.

For families with a history of child abuse, domestic violence and neglect, the holidays can be particularly tense and difficult. Survivors may be coping with the stress of planning, gathering and emotionally preparing to spend time with current or former perpetrators of violence, some of which may also be family members. It is important to recognize that not all survivors discuss or share their stories of abuse and that they may be trying their best to cope during times spent with family.

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Photo by Nubia Navarro (nubikini) on

The holidays can be difficult for families grieving from loss.

The holidays can especially difficult for families that have lost a loved one. Grief has no end date, and families may be coping with the loss of a family member when the holidays come around. In that grief, families may be adjusting with not having a family member at Thanksgiving any more or not buying gifts for that person any longer. Reminders that a loved one is no longer with us takes a special sensitivity and understanding during this time of the year.

The holidays can be difficult for folks whose practices and values are different from their families. 

For folks who have identities and/or cultural practices that do not align with their immediate and extended families values, the holidays can be a hostile time. Being with and around family can be tense and in some cases, may not be safe, for folks from the LGBTQ community, folks that do not believe in the same religion as their families and folks that make choices to not engage in cultural practices that their families may hold dearly.

For the holidays to be an joyful time, it is helpful to recognize that many families may be experiencing difficulties, transitions and challenging moments. The shame-free perspective we can adapt is that all families may be coping with something. That’s why creating space for us all to choose to be together safely is really what this holiday season is all about.

Why are the holidays not always a cheerful time for you?

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