The holidays are the most difficult time of year for those suffering with some type of mental illness. Most times, families don’t know how to deal with their family members that are suffering. They’d rather act as if everything is okay and as if the issue belongs only to the one suffering.

There are many things that may trigger a person who has been through a traumatic experience. Many times, no one knows the depth of their suffering because they’ve either not disclosed it or, you haven’t taken the time to listen to them no matter how many times they’ve expressed themselves.

While holidays can be hardest on those in mental distress and can sometimes be emotional for everyone, they can also be a good time to find healing. Thing is, it sometimes takes more than just the person suffering to heal relationships that have been broken.

I’ve found myself alone in my healing and, many days I wonder if it’s my last. Every single day is a fight for me so I wanted to help someone else and provide you all a few ways to deal with your family members who may be dealing with depression, trauma or some form of mental illness this holiday season. No one should ever have to suffer alone.

  1. Don’t mention a person’s weight. They may laugh along with you but you don’t know the struggle they may be going through to maintain whatever weight they are. Let them enjoy food without your judgment, then, if their health is a factor, responsibly come up with a plan to help them.
  2. If your sister-in-law shows up with natural hair, it’s not your place to criticize her journey. Your comments aren’t helpful or necessary.
  3. Don’t force your child, toddler/college-aged, to hug anyone! If they are resistant, allow them to have those boundaries without being disciplined for being “rude.”
  4. Don’t trust every little cousin your toddler plays with. Some kids are more curious than others. Don’t let their curiosity traumatize your child throughout adulthood.
  5. Let your college kid sleep. Let your adult child sleep. Then, when they wake up, ask them if they’d like to talk. Excessive sleeping is a sign of depression.
  6. If your child, no matter how old, tries to tell you what’s bothering them, listen. This isn’t the time for you to tell them what is or isn’t true. This isn’t the time to speak of their mental health. It’s the time to listen.
  7. Own your role in the family’s turmoil. Own. It.
  8. Change things up. Traditional dinners, settings, and routines are draining. It’s ok to do things differently to start fresh and have new traditions.
  9. Get everyone together for a walk. Walking is a good time to talk. It’s a great time to listen and share thoughts on how coming together is both impactful and painful. It’s also a time to laugh, find joy, share memories of lost family members, and most importantly, walk off some of the food.

While I wanted to provide tips to help family members deal with loved ones who are suffering, I also wanted to provide advice to individuals who may be anxious about going home for the holidays. The most important advice I can give is for you to understand that you are not obligated to be in any place that brings you pain. You are not obligated to be anybody’s punching bag. You do not have to suffer for the sake of “tradition.”

This holiday season, I urge each of you to be accountable for your place in each other’s lives. Life is incredibly too short. We all deserve to be heard….. and healed.