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The holiday season, not just a time for celebration...

Stéphanie Villeneuve
Stéphanie Villeneuve

Chances are you've heard of the Grinch, maybe you even use the phrase jokingly to describe yourself or someone who doesn't get excited about the holiday season.

But do you know the story of the Grinch, the real one? In the original book, the Grinch hates Christmas because of his association with the holiday. In elementary school, he was publicly humiliated during the holiday season.

The Grinch

The Grinch

On the other hand, you probably know some people who get caught up in the magic of Christmas as soon as fall arrives? Decorations, Christmas music, nothing is as wonderful!

Whether they are positive or negative, it is important to remember that the associations we make with the holiday season may well come from memories or experiences that we remember little or nothing about. It is therefore not always easy to know from where our reaction stems. We don't decide whether we like Christmas or not, but respecting what it brings out in us and in the people around us can help us feel better.

This article is not intended to make anyone feel guilty, but to provide food for thought on the types of issues, personal and professional, that people face during this time of year.

A time that often brings people together, but that can also be isolating

For many, the holiday season is synonymous with joy, abundance, family time, etc. It is often an opportunity to see people we haven't seen in a long time, to make new memories.

However, for a person who is dealing with or who has dealt with grief, who is experiencing financial difficulties, who has addiction issues, who has gone through a separation, who is confronted with illness (physical or mental), who is geographically distant from their loved ones, who has been the victim of various traumas, who has fertility issues, who has different religious beliefs, etc., the holiday season can have a completely different meaning and can sometimes even lead to isolation.

An invitation to reflect

It goes without saying that as mental health professionals, we accompany many people who are experiencing issues such as those mentioned above. Therefore, we feel it is important to take a step back, open a dialogue and allow for reflection on our own relationship with the holiday season.

With all good intentions, we may take pleasure in decorating our work environment and creating a festive atmosphere, changing the usual background music for Christmas music, etc. What impact(s) does this have or is it likely to have on our clientele, who may assign a different meaning to this time of year?

A few courses of action

It might be helpful to start a discussion with your clients to better understand what the holiday season means to them.
In video conferencing, using a background can help keep the environment neutral, while still allowing you to enjoy the small pleasures that come with decorating your space.
When leaving for the holiday season, consider whether the traditional "Happy Holidays" is appropriate for the person you are meeting with.
When it comes to New Year's wishes, start the conversation by asking the other person what you can wish them, rather than using the usual formats that assume this is what the person needs.

In short, the idea is not to feel guilty if we like the holiday season and its surrounding atmosphere, or the opposite, but rather to question ourselves and make adjustments as needed in order to develop a sensitive and conscious approach towards others. We believe that from one human being to another, it is the best gift we can give!

Stéphanie Villeneuve

Product specialist, Social worker, B.T.S.

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