We’re heading into that time of the year…the most wonderful, and the most stressful. We know the holidays are stressful for anyone who has family…but they are equally trying for those who do not have family. Everyone knows that you can’t choose your family, but you have the power to control what effect family has upon your life, and set boundaries regarding behaviors that you will or won’t accept.
Can you make a family out of friends? Absolutely. Through the love and support of your friends, you can create something that is healthy and meaningful.
How can you establish your Friend Family?
•Reframe your thinking. Open your mind. Family does not mean only one thing. Family is more than biology. Family is who has your back, and who is there for you in good and bad times. If you are estranged from family, take small steps to connect more closely with other people in your life.
•Value the people that you have in your life and express what they mean to you. Don’t hesitate to tell them how important they are to you. Your Friend Family can be small. Two people? Fantastic! We’re after quality, not quantity.
•Acknowledge that holidays can be difficult. Some days are going to be tough. Accept any invitations that come your way and just say yes. Make plans in advance and keep them. Celebrate holidays on your own terms, and if that means a movie marathon with your friend, break out the popcorn.
Other survival Strategies
•Recognize that loneliness is a feeling and not a permanent state of being.
•Understand that you are not alone, and many people share your feelings.
•Choose to be the hero of your life, not the victim. You have to be willing to fight for the life that you want, and take risks to achieve it.
•Rethink your expectations. Steer clear from Hallmark movies about perfect holidays.
•Be kind to yourself but practice tough love. Don’t allow yourself to wallow in self-pity. You’re alone on Thanksgiving? Go to a food pantry and help people in need celebrate the holiday. When you lose yourself in helping others, you will find something greater than yourself.
•Use technology to connect with others in similar situations. Need someone to talk to? Try engaging in friendly phone calls, and check out https://covia.org/services/well-connected/
•Be grateful for every day. Tomorrow is not a guarantee.
•Consider meeting with a professional counselor to talk about how you feel.
Anais Nin wrote, “The secret to a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow.” Create new traditions and don’t look back. You can do it.
Bio: Sherry Saturno is the Executive Director of Gramatan Village. She is dually licensed as a Nursing Home Administrator and Clinical Social Worker, and holds Master’s degrees from Columbia and Long Island Universities. She is a Fellow at the National Academies of Practice, and graduated from a national fellowship at NYU Silver School of Social Work. She is the host and producer of Reimagine Aging Podcast, and wrote and produced a short documentary film, Human Investment.