When the shape of your family looks different than what’s considered traditional – a family you have deliberately chosen to create, perhaps against the wishes or approval or you birth family –what does that mean about how you choose to spend your holiday season? Perhaps it’s the loss of a vital family member that keeps you feeling isolated and unsure how to readjust, or that the physical and emotional distance between yourself and a sibling or parent is still too great a chasm to cross. Perhaps it’s a concern for safety, and the decision not to travel or host a large gathering arose due to health concerns.
Whatever it may be, with the arrival of the holidays and a festive focus on family this time of year, you may be feeling the weight of absence or alteration to your family structure more heavily. Coming to terms with the unconventional shape of the most valuable relationships in your life can be extra challenging when everyone around you seems to have relationships you can’t relate to. Maybe it’s taking a toll on your mental health, or you’re just struggling to see the way through the guilt and hurt. When heavy feelings weigh down the brilliant possibility of our expectations for what the holidays are supposed to mean, it can be challenging to grasp the festive mood.
No matter the shape of your family, the way you love, or the struggle you endured to create a family that feels authentic, you deserve to celebrate! So instead of focusing on what’s different about your family, let’s take a look at the power of found family by highlighting three unique reasons to celebrate these bespoke relationships and new traditions this holiday season.
#1 It’s your choice now
It feels like a radical rejection when you remove yourself from the orbit of your family of origin. Leaving expectations behind, along with the relationships that were a formative part of your early start, can be traumatic, but it can also be liberating. Whether it was your choice to leave those relationships or not, you have a choice now.
Read that one more time: You have a choice now.
You can make your choice known, from who takes on the coveted roles of trust and family in your life to the way you celebrate or reflect those roles. Your declaration can be to the world at large through social media, photographs, or public celebrations. But it can also be a quiet declaration of family, of love, and of celebration, without fanfare, that’s whispered across time, again and again.
Your choice doesn’t have to be loud or abrasive to be radical. The Grand Canyon was carved from a river, not a hurricane. The continuous flowing of your truth through the threads of this holiday season and your life at large are your choice, and it will always be valid.
Even if you have spent the last decade meeting up with your friends from high school in the winter months, the choice you may make this holiday seasons is to forgo the typical gossip and life comparison session. You may choose instead to attend an alumni meeting with others who went through a similar life-changing experience in treatment at THIRA Health.
#2 You get to be the author of your traditions
How often did you wish that you could decide how to celebrate your birthday or the sparkling winter festivities each year? Do you remember dreaming of more lights, less comings and goings, or even a day of being royalty and getting everything you want?
As the author of your own traditions, you can make those dreams real. You can write every wish into reality, compiling a lifetime of hopes and goals for the people who matter most to you and creating an amalgamation of magic as unique as your family is.
Taking back such intimate power is a rebellion against the often rigid and unyielding viewpoints of society at large. You can tell the world that your family looks and feels authentic without ever saying a word at all. When you’ve created a family that fits your life and helps you feel cared for, the way you celebrate should provide the same fulfillment. So if your holidays are feeling lackluster or like a performance that drains you, permit yourself to let go of the guilt and lean into the community that celebrates you instead.
#3 It embraces the true reason for the season
Have you spent much time thinking about this time of year and what it means to you? Perhaps the stress of commercialization and obligation have overshadowed the real purpose of the holiday season.
If you find yourself feeling uninspired or drained by those things, constantly reminded of the family you don’t have, or traditions you don’t want to keep, consider the real reason for the season: togetherness. As one year closes and another glimmers on the horizon, you have the chance to find gratitude in a shared sense of togetherness. That gratitude does not require you to spend it with people or in spaces that make you feel unheard, or that shine a light on old trauma.
Found family is a powerful trope in literature for good reason, but its reality often feels disconnected from what’s expected of you. You are not alone. You are not obligated to live up to those expectations.
When you consciously choose to lean into the family and community spaces that embrace the reason for the season, you are not falling short. On the contrary, you are succeeding in incredible ways by accepting your authentic self and creating a life you can thrive in.
Your chosen family is part of that, and any time you doubt yourself, let them rally around you, lift you up, and find your own festive way to celebrate, together.