The holidays are a time for joy and togetherness. But for those who find themselves childless, not by choice, it can be an especially difficult time of year. The holidays are filled with reminders of what we do not have and can resurface the pain. It can be hard to manage these emotions while bringing cheer into the holiday season.
It can present a unique challenge, especially when it comes to handling all the invitations and obligations that come with them. It’s important to remember that it is completely okay to say no to some of these events, even if it means rejecting family traditions. You don’t have to accept all the invitations or feel obligated to attend every gathering simply because you want to keep everyone happy.
It’s also okay – and encouraged – to create new traditions, ones that work better for you and your needs around this time of year. This may mean taking part in fewer gatherings than usual or replacing one activity with another one; whatever works best for you is acceptable! If attending family gatherings seems too overwhelming, consider going with a plan: think ahead on what topics of conversation are off-limits and how long you would like to stay at an event.
Say No Without Guilt
It can be difficult to say no to family gatherings, especially when fear of guilt and dread are involved. Spending time with family and friends is a reasonable priority. But the truth is, you can skip every gathering if you want to. It’s essential to recognize that saying no without feeling guilty is possible and sometimes necessary.
No one should suffer through an unpleasant or uncomfortable event just because they feel obligated. You’re allowed to assess your situation honestly and prioritize yourself without worrying about what other people might think or feel about it. Don’t let worry stop you from making decisions that will benefit your well being in the long run; allow yourself permission to opt out whenever needed.
Your views about your situation impact how you feel, so thinking about what you choose to do for the holiday matters.
Balance is key, so think about this when deciding:
- Would the pain of going be worse than the consequences of not going?
- What boundaries can I set in place?
Start New Traditions
Take control of the holidays by starting new traditions that make you feel fulfilled and happy. You and your partner may be in different emotional places about your childlessness which is why it is important to create a meaningful experience together that would help strengthen your relationship with each other and, if you are a step-parent, with your step-children as well.
Whether you decide to skip the holiday parties and gatherings this year or not, it always helps to plan ahead. Again, preparation is critical; with this, you will be able to take control of awkward conversations that could come your way.
To be fully prepared:
- Visualize and practice – think about possible scenarios and your responses.
- Practice pausing and breathing – you don’t have to respond immediately. Take your time and allow a moment for you to collect your thoughts.
- Find an ally – it helps when you have someone you trust to steer you away from uncomfortable situations and walk away with you when necessary.
- Have an exit strategy – when feelings get overwhelming, find a place where you can cool down and breathe.
- Self-care – plan a special treat for yourself after the gatherings and take a break. You deserve it!
The holiday season is a time of joy and cheers for many, but for those who are childless, not by choice, it can be an immensely difficult season to get through. Not only is there a reminder of what one does not have, but there’s also the knowledge that things will never be the same as they once were. Therefore, it’s essential to acknowledge these emotions in order to process them and move forward.
There are a variety of tools available to help with this self-care journey. You are invited to join our FREE Mini-Course: “Handling the Holidays,” a deeper discussion of techniques and practical tips that will give you the skills needed to navigate through the holidays. Through this shared experience, we have the opportunity to build a healing community.