‘You better not cry’

Santa is coming to town, but many will not be overjoyed

By Barbara Pierce

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! ‘Tis the season to be jolly!

Well, not for all of us.

With all the glitter and merry, many are in caves of gloom. This time of year can especially tough. Some of us would prefer to skip the holidays and just fast- forward to January.

Many things add to the stress and difficult emotions of this month. Some of the struggles we face:

• Relative time: Because the holidays are so stressful, tensions can arise even in the closest of families. Old grudges can surface. Just because you’re related to someone doesn’t mean that you get along or even like him or her.

“If seeing your family is stressful, set time limits,” said Deanna Brady, psychiatric nurse practitioner and owner of Present Tense Psychiatry in Clinton.

“Take the initiative to plan where you will get together with them. For example, if you’re more comfortable at your mom’s than at your sister’s, choose to go to your mom’s. Limit how long you’ll stay — just excuse yourself. Think ahead about various options until you come up with a scenario that makes you feel comfortable,” Brady advises. “Don’t isolate yourself during the holidays. Participate with others, but on your terms.”

Practice acceptance of others. When you have an issue with a family member, they won’t change — don’t expect that maybe this year will be better. Accepting others as they are, with their weaknesses, doesn’t mean being blind to their shortcomings. It just means you stop fighting it. You work around it.

• Loss and grief: “When you’re grieving a loved one’s death, the holidays can be especially painful,” said Melissa Kehler, facilitator of Grief Survivors at the Good News Center in Utica. Grief Survivors support groups meet weekly to help people who have had a loss.

“Honor your feelings of grief and loss during the holidays,” advised Kehler. “Feelings are neither good nor bad; they just are. It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to cry.” Also, don’t feel guilty if you do find yourself having a good time during celebrations.

“Don’t be pressured by tradition,” added Kehler. “If you don’t feel like putting up a tree, don’t.”

And, the person who is grieving wants to hear the name of their loved one, but the family avoids talking about that person, she said. “The griever needs to be the one who brings it up. You might say: ‘Tell me about a time you were with Uncle Charlie.’ The griever sets the tone,” Kehler said.

Honor those who have passed

Finding a way to honor your loved one during the holiday celebrations can be especially meaningful. “Consider setting a place at the table for the one who died, and everyone puts a word of gratitude for that person on the plate, or says one thing about the person,” Kehler suggested.

Kehler invites those who are grieving to a “Surviving the Holidays” seminar set for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at The Good News Center, 10475 Cosby Manor Road, Utica.

Call 315-735-6210 or visit www.thegoodnewscenter.org for more information.

The free seminar will help participants discover how to deal with emotions, what to do about traditions, tips for surviving social events and finding hope for the future.

“It’s a great success. Many people come and learn things that help them get through the holidays,” she said.

• Loneliness: For many people, the holidays emphasize their loneliness. Some live far from family and miss seeing their loved ones this time of year; others dread going to holiday parties without a partner and end up staying home.

If you know that you’ll be alone, plan ahead to do something new. Like a mini getaway or connect with an old friend. If you’re staying home, plan your day, perhaps a classic Christmas movie, a delicious meal, or a special book.

If you won’t be with loved ones, you may want to seek out other people in your situation. Do you know someone at work, school or your neighborhood that is also alone? Reach out and suggest an activity.

“We have a large population of seniors in this area who are isolated and lonely,” said Cindy Shepherd of Lutheran Care in Clinton. “We have a wonderful core of volunteers who provide a really valuable service. We’re filling a real need; they won’t get their needs met if we don’t do it.”

• Consider volunteering: There are isolated seniors who would love to see a friendly visitor through Your Neighbors in Clinton at 315-235-7149.

Or help care for animals at the Steven-Swan Humane Society in Utica (315-738-4357), or the Humane Society of Rome (315-336-7070), or in the peaceful setting of Spring Farms CARES Animal and Nature Sanctuary in Clinton (315-737-9339).