Reid Vanderburgh MA, LMFT

Holiday Self-Care

In my ten years as a therapist, I’ve noticed a pattern among my trans clients, based on the time of year they begin facing their true selves and taking steps to change their lives. Those who come to see me during the late summer/early fall months bump up against the fact that by starting their process at such a time, they are going to be disclosing their intention to people within weeks of Thanksgiving and then Christmas. More than once, folks have said to me, “I think I’ll put this off until January.” The “this” varies; sometimes “this” means, “I’m not going to start hormones until January.” Sometimes “this” means, “Do I really want to tell my family what’s going on and become the focus of a family gathering?”

But even the person who waits until January has to face the fact — Thanksgiving and Christmas will come again. That family gathering is a fact of life, for many people. So, what are some ways to help lessen the pressure of the holidays?

Visiting biological family who aren’t supportive of your identity

- Take phone numbers and e-mail addresses of good friends — and use them;

- Tell friends where you’re going, and make “dates” to contact them;

- Take time outs, for contacting friends, reading a favorite book, or just taking a walk alone;

- If you do have some family members who are supportive, make arrangements in advance to spend time alone with them

Being alone during the holidays

- Contact friends to see if anyone else is alone; maybe you don’t have to be;

- Turn the time into an opportunity to see favorite movies, eat favorite foods, read a book you’ve been looking forward to — treat it like a vacation;

- Consider your relatives and old friends individually; decide whether you might want to call someone you feel close to.

Grief during the holidays

If your family has cut you off, it’s normal to feel grief over this, especially at such a “family” time of year. Give yourself permission to feel more sad than you might otherwise be. The winter holidays in mainstream American culture tend to evoke feelings of family, connection and belonging more than any other time of year. It takes time for the connections of family of choice to take on the patina of long-term relationship. Even if they are relatively new in your life, reach out to people you are forming “family” connections with in your new identity. You may find this helps you cope better with grief over your biological family.

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