Single for the Holidays Series – Surviving Family

Everyone has one. And they are all both functional and “dysfunctional” in some ways. When we are the single adult in our family, it doesn’t matter if we are the son, the daughter, the mom, the dad, the Aunt, the Uncle, the sibling, or the cousin, in the midst of the celebration of the joy of the birth of Christ, sometimes it is difficult to be without a partner. In this second article on Single for the Holidays, we’ll look at surviving time with family.
Now if you have the perfect family, never asking why you aren’t married yet, or why you aren’t dating again yet, or why you didn’t marry that nice girl from college, then read no more. If you have the family that cares for you, but sometimes doesn’t understand why their questions can be painful at this time of year, then read on. If you are considering bringing a date home for the holidays and not sure if it’s time to expose him or her to your family, then read on. And, if you have the family that drives you crazy no matter what the occasion, then I have some strategies that can help.

First Strategy: Be proactive in expecting the madness. Meaning, if you know someone is going to tell you to loose weight, or gain weight, or dress different, or go on more blind dates . . whatever it is that triggers the hurt and the anger inside of you, then plan for it. How? An amazingly clever little game called “Dysfunctional Bingo.” Make a Bingo grid on a piece of paper and in each box put whatever event you know is going to happen. It may be “Uncle Joe gets drunk,” or “Aunt Sally swears at the dinner table,” or “My cousin with 3 kids tells me I should freeze my eggs.” You can have a lot of fun with it. Then, as the family get together unfolds, see if you can “get” Bingo (three across or down). There is really some strategy to it. It’s even more fun if you can plan with another family member or even a friend who is in another town. The game is meant to prepare you mentally and emotionally for time with your family, while also adding some humor and levity to the situation. If you think your family would find it hurtful, make sure it’s a private game. Consider it your mental health outlet.

Second Strategy: If you think you are going to feel lonely, then spend some time feeling your loneliness. Don’t try to hide from yourself. It’s ok to have difficult feelings at this time of year, it’s actually very normal. If you try to drive those feelings underground, through denial or distraction, then likely they will only get stronger and may create anxiety. Take some quiet time, alone and in communion with God, and let yourself feel. It’s amazing what happens. First, it’s normally not as bad as you expect. And second, after you let the loneliness’ express itself, you can allow the gift of grace to open your heart so acceptance and peace may follow.

Third Strategy: Bring your support system with you. Reach out to family and friends who understand what you are going through. Express your need for support during this time. It may mean that your best friend who just got married is on speed dial, because you are going to tell her you are struggling with being single, or single again, right now. Whatever you need to feel supported at this time, plan for it and make it happen. Take care of yourself by allowing others to care for you. When we intentionally reach out and connect with others, the healing power of not being alone is activated.

And finally, reach out to our Savior. Bring your feelings to the foot of the Cross. Tell Him about everything you are feeling: the pain, the sadness, the moments of joy, the gratitude, the confusion, the loneliness. Remember Christ was alone and abandoned, mistreated and misunderstood. He “gets it.” We celebrate the fact that He became human, because we can be sure He “gets it.” Let Him carry this burden for you. Even if He chooses not to “fix” it right now, He will always choose to walk with you in the journey.