The Holidays Are A Tipping Point
The Holidays are a special time of year. For many people they are also a tipping point. A mere glance at holiday lights and decorations ushers in nostalgia. We miss the people that cannot or will not be able to gather with us. So too, we feel bad about the gifts we wanted to buy, couldn’t afford, that were no longer available, or that will not arrive by Christmas. Nostalgia, longing and regret can shepherd in other emotions. Suppressed feelings like inadequacy, vulnerability, and loneliness can invade the joy we want to be feeling during this special time of year. For many adoptees, the loss and rejection that is inherent in adoption surfaces during the holidays. These feelings are understandable given that the Christmas story is centered around the gift of a child–a child who was born in unseemly circumstances, but who was welcomed and acknowledged by kings and centuries of people. The adopted child/adult, however content he or she is with life in their adoptive family, knows that another set of parents made a decision not to include them in their lives. As an adoptee, I know the pain of looking around the holiday table and noting who is not seated there among the people I call “my loved ones.” Because of this “primal wound” of the adoption experience, many adoptees struggle with identity and belonging. The holidays are a reminder of who we belong to and who we do not. As more and more states address the need to overhaul antiquated adoption laws, adult adoptees are finding themselves locked in court battles to gain access to basic medical history and genealogy. If an adoptee is fortunate to have the information to reach out to birth relatives, many of them struggle to connect and be acknowledged. Some adoptees know the pain of having been dismissed by a biological parent and warned never to reach out again. For an adoptee, the Season of Joy can be another reminder of all that adoption took from them. It’s safe to say that 2020 has been a tipping point for many across the globe. Loss and rejection are not specific to any particular group of people. Disappointment, trauma and loss have been the unwelcome themes of 2020, a year aptly nicknamed “the year like no other.” Many experts share tips for coping with the stress of the holidays. The Mayo Clinic offers this advice: Acknowledge your feelings–it’s normal to feel sadness and grief; Reach out for support if you feel lonely or isolated; Be realistic about expectations and open to creating new traditions; Set aside differences and accept family members and friends for who they are. Social worker Sharon Martin offers several guides about staying mentally healthy during the holidays. My favorite is the “Essential Holiday Self-Care Practice.” I plan to follow her counsel to name my feelings, scale back and forgive myself for doing less, and to be gentle with myself and others. How ever you spend the holidays, and with whomever you gather, I hope that The Season of Joy is meaningful, and that the biggest gift you continue to enjoy is good health and wellness.