Christmastime brings family together, and that’s a good thing.
As an old year closes and a new one opens, December celebrations hopefully leave us with rich and positive memories. Yet sometimes all the family togetherness also leaves us with disappointment or a new burden to bear.
Maybe you are reveling in some positive holiday afterglow. That’s good – soak it up. Family is one of the greatest joys because good relationships can reflect a foretaste of the Divine. At the same time, we aren’t in Heaven and therefore relational strain, “growth opportunities” and downright abusive situations must be faced.
One thing we notice in Focus on the Family’s Counseling Department through the nearly 1,500 counseling consultations we complete each month is this: New and perplexing issues arise for moms, dads, sons, daughters and spouses in December. We may tack on the smiles for the parties, but come January and February, the delayed effects of these hard realities or fresh holiday revelations begin to be faced. The first two months of the year are when our counseling call volumes typically increase.
The details vary, but common threads exist for post-holiday burdened hearts. Here’s a few of the themes we see and the nature of the personalized input we offer in response.
Addiction. A loved one just can’t seem to stop the cycle. The mess keeps happening again and again. The pain is real for the family members and the addicted person alike.
If your loved one is in such a cycle, what can you do to be the healthiest version of yourself – with firm and loving boundaries? Focus your energy there; it’s the best thing to do, and it gives your loved one their best chance for awakening to the consequences of addiction before it’s too late. With competent help, their recovery is possible, even if hard.
Bad marriage. Where has the prior love and intimacy gone? The affair or dabbling in the realm of virtual infidelity through pornography may have left its mark. Yet even the lowest lows in a marriage can rise to a place of hope again. The only individual you control though, is you.
Reach out for help even if your spouse won’t – changing your responses through good self-care, essential self-respect, and yes, even sacrificial love toward the spouse you don’t really ‘like’ right now, are fundamental starting places for potential change.
Abuse. No excuses are good enough when physical harm, patterns of verbal abuse or misuse of power are belittling or controlling another human being.
Said plainly and bluntly: Get safe, get the support needed to halt the evil in its tracks, and seek the counsel and empowerment needed to remain safe. Only then is the potential for true repentance and relational betterment made possible. Ending this cycle is vitally important. Visit FocusontheFamily.com/AbusiveRelationships
Parent and adult child conflicts. Raising kids was hard. Being a teen was hard. But launching into adulthood (or seeing young adults become wayward or boomerang back home) can at times be even harder.
Whether in the role of parent or adult child, what could surrender of control, or offering honor despite disagreement look like? Intentionally taking a new posture in your relational strains may just be the key to starting a new cycle of mutual respect and, eventually, positive influence.
Grief and mental health challenges. Sadness, loss, and at times even biochemical challenges in the brain lead to various symptoms. This can feel like a dead-end road with hopelessness taking root. What can be done to cope? What’s the way forward?
Social isolation, refusing medical help, or giving up after an initial attempt at counseling are certainly not the answers. Community, connection to a healthy and grace-filled church, and oftentimes sticking with a good professional Christian counselor through a guided journey of healing are all important.
In so many of these tough matters that we hear, there’s certainly no “easy answer” or quick fix. But there are perhaps a few do-able steps that can help alter the trajectory.
And, even when circumstances can’t or don’t change, finding peace and strength in Christian faith and biblical hope is profoundly contenting.
Nothing is so broken inside us that Jesus can’t bring it healing and peace. Ultimately, the Savior we just celebrated at Christmas is the mender and center of it all as we adjust, learn, cope and seek to heal.
If we can talk to you about Him, and about your joys or your new year’s challenges, we’d be honored and humbled to do so.
Call us at 1-855-771-HELP (or visit FocusontheFamily.com/GetHelp ). It’s what our counselors come to the ministry at Focus to do every day – and we love doing it because we deeply value sharing Jesus’s care for you and seeking His wisdom alongside you.
The new year is upon us all. We may have new hurts as well as new hopes after the holidays. Family and life are such that you probably have both of these feelings intertwined.
Accepting that reality and living outside the extreme margins of demanding “all good” or anticipating “all bad” from life and those around us is the flexible and resilient mindset needed for starting a new year well. Now, with your hurts as well as your hopes, take your next best step.
Geremy F. Keeton, M.MFT, LMFT – Sr. Director / Focus on the Family Counseling Services Dept