In our culture, holidays are supposed to be joyous family oriented occasions. We are encouraged by the advertising industry and by the media in subtle and not so subtle ways, often for weeks ahead of the actual day, to get ready for the BIG DAY!!! This involves making purchases, sending cards, decorating offices and homes, buying new clothing, getting our hair cut and styled, baking, cooking, and making plans to get together with friends and family from near and far…..Now I don’t want to sound like a holiday basher, ‘cause I’m not ! I get caught up in the hoopla, too, but I do want to call your attention to a few things that are often overlooked that the holidays bring up for an awful lot of people, children and adults alike…..
For example, many children are being raised by alcoholic parents and/or caretakers who are intoxicated on Christmas and may pick fights with one another or their children throughout the day. They may stumble and fall down flights of stairs which may mean someone in the family has to call an ambulance on Christmas and accompany their loved one to the ER. Drug addicted parents may not have the necessary funds to purchase gifts for their children because the bulk of their income is used to buy substances. In short, Christmas becomes a nightmare, not a fairytale in these kinds of families. Likewise, Valentine’s Day is a wonderfully romantic time for those with partners but what about those who wish they had a partner but don’t or for people who have lost a much beloved partner to illness or divorce? Who wants to face a day that reinforces that kind of heartache?
And finally, Mother’s and Father’s Day….Imagine what those days are like for children who have never met their parents or whose parents are currently incarcerated or who are physically or sexually abusive? A huge number of our nation’s children are being raised by single parents these days and yet these children are faced with both a Mother’s and Father’s Day to celebrate and deal with each and every year.
So, all of this begs the question, what do I do now that I am thinking about these very painful issues that so many people face holiday after holiday, year after year, and often silently…? Well, for starters, reaching out is a wonderful thing to do and can have a huge impact! A simple invitation to invite someone over for a cup of hot chocolate during the holiday season or sending a card on Valentine’s Day to someone who has suffered a loss or leaving gifts for the neighbor’s kids whose parents just split up can make all the difference….That said, if you sense the situation has gone from bad to worse, refer your friend to a suicide or crisis hotline # (check the internet) or get them to your local ER for a psychiatric evaluation. Perhaps they could benefit from a grief group being offered free of charge at your local community hospital or house of worship.
Encourage your alcohol dependent neighbor to check out AA and offer to accompany he/she to their first meeting if they are hesitant to attend – and how about getting a list of Al-Anon meetings to his/her spouse? In short, the more we continue to subscribe to the ‘hush-hush’, ‘sweep it all under the rug’ kind of attitudes, the more we keep the stigma of mental illness and addiction alive. This in turn prevents those who need treatment from getting it! Why contribute to this vicious cycle?
We at Carrier Clinic are all about putting an end to this pointless stigma, recognizing the struggles people in the community are facing, particularly around the holidays, and providing cutting edge compassionate care all year long! Remember, we are here if and when you need us.
Margo Tarasov, LCSW
Director of Social Services, Carrier Clinic