Every year when the holidays come around, it is a satisfying and peaceful existence for me. This fact is especially true since I have returned to my faith, seeking to live as God would want me to live. (Several years passed when that was not the case.) So what I have done over the last couple of years on this blog is explore some thoughts about the holidays, touching on my personal beliefs, history, and experiences. I want to speak to the coming of the holidays from two perspectives, one as an individual and one as a professional counselor.
Holidays and Family
My family was one that celebrated and excitingly embraced the holidays. I remember year after year of extended family celebrations, both during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those were times that settled deep into me bringing home the importance of family, the connections that would remain with endearment throughout my life. The holidays were always special times, and above all they were times that signified the importance of family connection. The holidays did not make family connection special; the holidays were special because family connections were already special, regardless of the time of year. The holiday season simply emphasized what was already deeply special about family. Family was a place of belonging. It was a place to which and people to whom I could always return, knowing those connections would never cease to be there for me.
Holidays without Family
As a kid, I never realized that there were situations not quite as happy and secure as mine. In fact, there was no reason I or any other kid should have to face such painful facts, not until we become an adult. Those facts are that for many during the holiday season the loneliness becomes emphatically pronounced. The holidays shine a bright light on the importance of family. Many individuals simply lack that familial connection that can become an important focus during the holidays. When counselors and other mental health professionals are ready for time away from the office, this time of year brings people into the office bearing some weighty stuff because of either family conflicts or the lack of family connection all together. Not only might they lack family to spend time with during the season, but also many of their friends are away spending time with their families, emphasizing the lack of total connection they experience. The fact is, this is a tough time of year for many people. Those tough times begin right after Halloween and continue through Thanksgiving and Christmas on into the New Year.
Many of us know who these people are who move in our circles. As professionals, we know them as clients. There are two important things for us to consider who work with clients who face difficult times during the holidays. First, we have to understand that while we look forward to the holiday season, others do not because they lack those connections that enrich this time of year. Indeed, as counselors we may be their only connection to this season. It’s a difficult task at anytime to work with clients who experience deep loneliness. This time of year adds to that difficulty because we are so aware that our clients lack the family connections that make this time special.
This brings up the second thing of which we need to be aware as professionals. We cannot let our clients’ difficult times during this season put a damper on the holidays for us. As professional counselors, we are all aware of the need to clock out at the end of the day and leave our work at the office. This is a constant pressure in the field of counseling. There are reams of literature, research projects, and workshops that address the pressures that can lead to burnout for professional counselors. Those pressures can become magnified during this time of year. I believe strongly that is why family is so important, especially during the holiday season. We should embrace the fortunes and blessings we have if we still have our families available to us. Embrace those blessings with all our passion and enjoy them to their fullest extent. We never know when the last family get together will come.
As an individual, I miss my family-of-origin everyday. The years have come and gone since my mom and dad’s passing. In God’s providence, I never married so as to build my own family experience. Although those times have passed now, the solidity of what a loving family provided me over the years is one of the bulwarks against any loneliness I may experience during this time. Another is my faith. I always look forward to the holiday season. I want to embrace this time with every bit of life I have.
As a professional, I know that for many the holidays are difficult times indeed. I hope too that they find their bulwarks as well. I pray that they find some solid ground on which to step. One piece of that ground can be the therapy office where we as professionals can provide some connection with what they’re going through.
After all, that’s one of the main reasons we’re in the office.
John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/November 14th, 2019