We know how we're "supposed" to feel at the holidays: full of joy and goodwill, sharing peace and love with everyone. But what if you don't feel happy, let alone joyful and jolly?
Some of the hardest stages in life involve times of waiting. And being in the process of waiting to become parents during the holidays can create different or difficult feelings. Perhaps you feel out of touch with the normal holiday spirit. Or maybe you feel like this holiday season is just different from years past, and not in a good way. Maybe you thought you would have a baby by the end of the year, or at least feel like you had made more progress. All of these thoughts and feelings can bring a mindset that leads to feelings of isolation.
If you add in the short, dark winter days that lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder for some people, each day can be challenging, even before you add in holiday activities while waiting for the call about adoption to come. You might be feeling depression on top of isolation, and at times hopelessness may creep in.
I remember waiting to adopt feeling like a hurry up and wait game. I wanted the day to come, I wanted to rush to it, but in a time of waiting, we wait.
During the holidays, it seems like little things often become big things. For example, buying gifts for nieces and nephews can trigger unwanted feelings of jealousy. Tell yourself that someday you'll be buying gifts for your own child, and then believe it. Here are some other tips that will help you experience the holidays in a positive way while adopting:
Have an understanding ally. If going to a party is making you anxious about answering questions about adoption, go with your spouse, close friend, understanding relative, or co-worker. Arrive and leave together, with a preplanned arrangement to help watch your back with questions and conversation focused away from adoption. If alcohol triggers sadness or frustration, skip it at the party.
Your ally can also help redirect unsolicited advice or inappropriate personal questions. When it comes to adoption, everyone has an story or option, some are outdated, shared out of ignorance, or downright rude. If it helps, give yourself permission to have a smart-alecky response ready for some, such as answering “Have you adopted yet?” with “Well I hope not, because if we did we forgot to bring the baby tonight!”
Be open and direct with your family. Tell them what you need this year, even if it is time away from them. If the usual large family gathering seems like too much, see if the guest list can be trimmed down. Naturally, this could cause conflict with the rest of the family, but if they really care about you going through the adoption wait game, they should understand.
Make this year different. If holidays with family have not gone very well in the past, make changes to help you. Instead of doing the usual holiday dinner at home, go to a restaurant. If staying with your in-laws hasn't been positive, consider checking into a nearby hotel instead. Or simply get away from the entire holiday hubbub and go on a vacation, cruise or road trip. (Just keep your cell phone charged up and let us your adoption professional know if you are away from home.)
If you have a really difficult family history and seeing your family tends to trigger problems or unwanted questions, then staying away could be the right decision for you. Talk it over calmly with your spouse, close friend, or empathetic family member. Be sure you have other plans already in place.
But weigh the decision to not be around relatives carefully. Consider the benefits and the risks. Sometimes we imagine things are going to be worse than they actually are. And then evaluate living with the guilt of not going, especially if relatives are elderly. Remember, you can always make visits that don’t have to coincide with the big holiday event.
Take care of you. Your first order of business during the holidays has to be taking care of yourself and feelings. Keep up your exercise, healthy eating plan, and schedule some alone time for prayer daily. Even 10 minutes of reading your Bible and prayer is helpful.
Help someone else. I found that doing something for someone in need helped me greatly. If you have never volunteered before, starting now might really give your mood a good boost and put things in perspective. Check with your church or other local non-profit for events or specific needs. This keeps you focused on helping others and not just adoption. You might meet others that can help you with your adoption as I did. There is always someone less fortunate who needs your help.
This holiday season, plan ahead keep to your schedule and scale back your expectations. Focus on the positive things. You are in the process of adoption and even with the wait, this is an exciting time. Don’t let holiday blues get the best of you. Remember there is a child for you!