I’ve talked to a handful of women in the last couple of weeks begging the question – help me with Thanksgiving!!! What am I going to DO?!
I hear you. Navigating extended family and recovery work is freakin insane. Some of the strategies Jason and I used early on in our process we still use today. If I’m honest – which I will be – I still struggle with the holidays. #workinprogress It isn’t nearly as difficult as it used to be but it still takes intentional effort on our parts and a lot of conversations before, during and after.
Before I get to the strategies that can help us navigate the holidays with greater ease – let’s talk about why the holidays can be so hard. I’ve narrowed it down to four big reasons and I want you to see if any of these hit home for you. I know there are others out there and would love to hear what they are in the comments section below –
The pretend factor – Questions abound for us women as we are working through the early and middle stages of betrayal – Will what has happened to me be the elephant in the room? Who knows what? Will someone say something that will either embarrass me or send me to my room crying?
The space factor – Will I have space to grieve and to feel the emotions I need to feel with so many people around and so many activities going on?
The little boy factor – Will my husband assume the role he played in his family of origin once we are with his family? Will he become enmeshed again with his mom while we are there? Will he do whatever it takes – even throwing me under the bus – to get love and acceptance from his dad?
The we are changing factor – Just because we are changing (and aren’t we so glad that we have the capacity to do so!) doesn’t mean that anyone else around us is changing. Unfortunately when one person changes in a family system – it can cause a disequilibrium and others in the family will react (for better or worse) to this change. I hear a lot about negative reactions to the positive changes women are making which can be confusing for women that are working so hard to set boundaries, understand their limits, use their voices, etc.
As I tell the women I work with in my groups as well as in the one to one sessions I do – Having the insight and awareness is half the battle. Being able to name what is going on is HUGE. So if none of these factors above hit home – think about what might be playing in. Name it.
So now for the fun stuff. Let’s talk about what we can do to go into Thanksgiving week being grounded, more confident and less stressed.
Strategy #1 – Honor your feelings + name your reason. Be real with yourself and at least one other person that you deem safe (preferably your husband but depending on his recovery work and where you guys are at in the journey – this might need to be one of your go-to girls or a friend or mentor, etc.) as to how you are feeling.
I am not saying that you are going to base your every move on your feelings. No. But I want you to stay connected with yourself. Honor what you are feeling, name it, and share it.
Sometimes we go to a holiday gathering not because we are excited and looking forward to it. Instead – we might feel scared, dreadful, sad – but we do it anyways. And there is a reason. Name it. It might be that your kids get to spend time with their cousins or grandparents. It might be that you want to honor your parents or his parents. Keep the reason in mind and continue to honor how you feel as you walk through the event.
Strategy #2 – Ask yourself what YOU think, want, need and feel. I talk about this briefly in the Rescued workbook in the self-care chapter. I think it’s important to put everyone else’s needs and desires in a box when we do this exercise. All we are doing is exploring what we think – want – need – feel. And then after we explore – we can start to piece together the best way to move forward.
For example – recently I was talking to someone that shared she and her husband are separated and she didn’t know what to do about Thanksgiving and navigating his extended family and her extended family. As we talked – I asked her – what do you need? And what she really wanted and needed was permission to not have to go to her in-laws. She knew it would be too difficult for her heart. What this meant was she would have her littles with her family for part of the day and he would have them with his family for part of the day. Oh the grief that she felt. No momma wants to be without her kids for thanksgiving – and she also knew what her heart could tolerate and heading to the in-laws and faking it – not tolerable this year.
Strategy #3 – Have a plan. Before the gathering (or before you leave for the trip or before your guests arrive for the week) – sit down with your husband and talk about the best way to stay connected and work as a team. Jason and I still do this before every trip or holiday – whether it’s going to be just the 5 of us or the 5 of us plus the rest of our crazy family.
For instance, we plan out good times to step away and do a check-in (for us, it’s usually on a morning run). Jason likes to get away for some alone time (introvert alert!) almost every day and I step up and watch the boys. We talk about how we might need to protect ourselves emotionally and what our limits are in conversations, etc.
My hope is that each of you can approach next week feeling empowered, connected to yourself and more confident than in years past. You can click here and here for some other posts that I’ve written in the past as you prepare your game plan.
You got this girl!
And as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts or answer your questions – just comment below and I will respond.
xo – Shelley