Surviving Our Families Over the Holidays


“If you think you’re enlightened go spend a week with your family.”

-Ram Dass

It’s that busy few weeks right now between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when many of us have barely had time to recover from one family gathering before the next one looms. We don’t need to have deep, dark family histories in order to find extended time with family challenging. Stick us in a house with anyone, add in lots of expectations for how Thanksgiving or Hanukah or Christmas or Kwanzaa “should” be, and we’re bound to feel challenged.

Holiday survival with familyToo often, these holidays are also a reminder of loss – who isn’t here with us, how these holidays used to be, and what may be missing right now from our lives. Underneath the cheer is often a layer of sadness or worry or regret tinged with some self-recrimination. Shouldn’t we be enjoying ourselves right now?

My wonderful colleague Tara Lozano reminds me that sometimes the only thing to say in these moments is “This too.” It’s the exciting holiday season – and we feel sad. We love our extended families – and they drive us crazy. Saying “This too” makes room for the fact that our lives often have elements of wonder and despair at the exact same point. Saying “This too” makes space for the facts we can want to hug and kill our relatives, sometimes at the exact same time. This is normal. It doesn’t make us bad people that we hold such a wide range of emotions – it just makes us human.