I know, no one wants to see the words “surviving” and “holidays” in the same post.
The notion of surviving the holidays is a bit awkward, even confrontational, for some people. The holidays are supposed to be filled with happy family time, joyous Christmas carols, and lots of delicious food and thoughtful presents. Right? No one wants to hear about how you’re not really up for a holiday celebration, especially when they’ve put a lot of work into a cookie exchange or Christmas dinner.
However, holidays are often some of the toughest days for people struggling with heartache, grief, and even anger, which are common emotions for many people waiting to adopt. You’ve been waiting for years to create Christmas memories with your kids, and you still can’t do that. Watching other people in their happy holiday spirit can hit hard, leaving you in a dark place.
If you’re waiting to adopt and are struggling this Christmas season and in need of some tips for surviving the holidays, I hope you find a bit of advice and encouragement here. If you have loved ones waiting to adopt, I hope this insight will help you understand where they’re at right now and give them the love and support they need.
Make the holiday meaningful for you
Having lots of family members who invite you to their holiday celebrations is great. Receiving too many party invitations is always a good problem. However, it’s easy to get caught up in everyone else’s vision for the holiday and not do what you want to do. Be intentional about setting aside time for yourself as well as time for your spouse during the holidays to make it meaningful for you and your own family.
Don’t wait to start new traditions
Putting off something you really want to do at the holidays year after year because you still don’t have kids gets depressing. There’s no need to wait. You shouldn’t feel like you have to apologize to anyone because you and your spouse want to visit the holiday zoo lights show or cook an elaborate Christmas dinner just for the two of you. The sooner you start new holiday traditions, the more years you and your spouse will have to enjoy them together.
Be selective about the invitations you accept
You can’t avoid all awkward circumstances or weird and offensive questions during the holidays. However, you can keep it under control and steer clear of people or events that you know will push your buttons or overwhelm you. You don’t owe it to anyone to accept every invitation you receive during the holidays. If you aren’t up for reconnecting with your high school friends, all of whom have large families now, or you can’t face your entire extended family at once, politely decline.
Rehearse your responses
Inevitably, people will ask you about the wait during holiday gatherings. Preparing a few responses ahead of time will help you answer questions smoothly and avoid saying something you’ll regret. Decide how much you want to share. It’s okay to talk about it a lot or avoid talking about it altogether. There is no single strategy that works for everyone. Be honest with yourself about what and how much you want to say, and prepare responses accordingly.
Have an escape plan, so you can leave early as needed
You never know when grief will overwhelm you or when everyone else’s holiday cheer will get to be too much. Create an escape plan for yourself. When you’re attending holiday functions with your spouse, talk about your escape strategy ahead of time. Whenever possible, avoiding hosting events. It’s a lot easier to leave Thanksgiving dinner at your aunt’s house a little earlier than most other relatives than it is to duck out when you’ve agreed to host your annual high school friends’ cookie exchange.
Remember that it’s okay to change your mind
Just as it’s okay to leave an event early, it’s also okay to say no to an event altogether. Additionally, you can change your mind at the last minute about an event you weren’t going to attend and decide that you do want to go. Don’t feel guilty about your emotions. It’s okay to feel sad and stay at home watching Seinfeld reruns and eating takeout Thai food instead of going out and celebrating. It’s also okay to feel happy and enjoy having a long kid-free dinner catching up with college friends who are in town.
Reach out to fellow adoptive parents who get it
I’ve discussed the importance of building an adoption community in multiple posts I’ve written here about adoption. Most people in your life have no idea what it’s like waiting to adopt. Even with the best of intentions, your closest loved ones will often say or do the wrong thing. It’s especially difficult when these situations arise during the already emotionally-charged holiday season.
Adoptive parents have been through it all and will provide sympathy and support during the darkest moments of the holidays. They will always let you know that you’re not alone and that your feelings are valid. Don’t be afraid to reach out to “your people,” even at the most random moments. Sometimes taking a minute to send a quick text message after a relative says something truly offensive and getting some quick support will turn around the whole evening for the better.
Take care of yourself
During the holiday season, it’s easy to get caught up in a million tasks and not take care of yourself properly. While holiday preparations may provide a much-needed distraction during the wait, it’s important to make yourself a priority, too.
Above all else, get enough sleep, drink lots of water, and eat regular meals. Take time each day to slow down and do something just for yourself. Beyond the basics I’ve just outlined, my personal daily self-care strategies include using a weighted heat pad for my shoulders and back, drinking hot tea, diffusing essential oils or lighting favorite candles, and spending a few minutes at the end of the day reading or catching up on a little TV.
As always, adoptive parents, I’d love your insight on this topic!
What advice helped you the most for surviving the holidays while you waited to adopt?
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