Seriously, You Don’t Have to Attend
Updated: May 4
Healthy, happy families, and they do exist, are not really worrying about the upcoming Holidays except to plan food, gifts and events. Although there may be some stress concerning budgeting, travel arrangements or amounts of this or that for meals, overall, they are anticipating the holidays with delight. They want to see relatives, and they look forward to catching up, laughing, visiting and exchanging ideas.
Unhealthy families do not anticipate holidays with pleasure. Unhealthy families hold anger and nurse resentments. Members may actually be planning remarks, attacks and arguments or going over past hurts. Others are getting themselves worked up over something else. Some members are going to drink too much. Some of these people will affect your mental health.
Some of these people may trigger feelings you would rather not have.
I am not going to further describe what behavior may be displayed by the unhappy and unhealthy among us. You already know what it looks like.
Right now I think it is more important that I tell you something:
You don’t have to attend family gatherings if you don’t want to.
You do not have to attend any family gathering that will make you, your partner, or your children, uncomfortable.
You don’t have to sit at a table being berated or humiliated.
You don’t have to listen to someone’s litany of resentments.
You don’t have to engage in arguments about politics, religion, or the way you are living your life.
You don’t have to pretend or ignore that abuse existed.
Seriously, you don’t have to attend.
You don’t have to attend the gathering, the argument or anything else.
Haven’t we all had to deal with enough over the last few years?
Do we have to deal with holiday hurt too?
This may be an astonishing statement.
You may think you have no choice.
You always have choices.
You can say no. Difficult but not impossible with practice.
Just because there is a tradition of getting together with family over the holidays, does not mean you must attend. You are allowed to say no. Our society has created this myth of family togetherness that hurts those who have grown up in abusive, bullying or unloving households. You are an adult now. YOU get to make the decisions.
When you were a child you did not have this power.
You now have this power. Use it.
If there are certain relatives that you do enjoy seeing, and you decide (again, your choice) to attend a family function, it is helpful to plan strategies to help you have a nice time.
Spend your time with the people you enjoy.
Be kind but don’t get pushed around.
Be respectful but do not tolerate ugliness.
Walk away from the argument, my friend, walk away.
Walk away from the negative or the overwhelming. Walk away.
Limit your time to have your own celebration later if you desire.
Remove your children from rooms where ugliness may be displayed--alcohol abuse, racist and other hateful comments, etc.
Leave the house if you need to. No one should tolerate abuse of any kind. Your children need to see you stand up for yourself in an empowering, not argumentative way.
I used to think, “but I have to go! It’s family, it’s the holidays, my mom will be upset.”
That last one kept me stuck. It affected other relationships in my life, and until I started embracing my own choices and setting boundaries, I was not truly healthy. Healing took a very long time. Don't waste time and energy as I did. That's what I want to tell you.
It’s not worth it.
Some situations are just not worth it.
That can be difficult to hear. Those of us who want to love our families, also want to keep hope. Hope it good, except when it fools you into thinking certain people or situations will change if you show enough love.
This is something I have learned in my life. You can love people without being in their company. It is sad and frustrating but if you are the only one making the effort to have a healthy relationship, stop. It’s too much work and you could be spending your time doing lovely, happy things.
Create your own family. Your friends are the family you get to choose. It’s okay to be with them on or during the holidays. Friendsgivings are not just for young people.
Create loving family traditions with your partner, friends and children.
Give gifts to those who appreciate them. Give from the heart.
Consider other ways to celebrate the holidays with the people you love and who love you: travel, volunteer, create whatever you want.
Love yourself enough to not put yourself through unpleasant, and in some cases, toxic situations.
Love yourself enough to say no.
Love yourself enough to stand up for yourself.
Love yourself enough to be kind to yourself.
Love yourself enough to not attend.
Here’s to honesty and happiness,
love and kindness
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