When the people who love you the most aren’t there, it can be sad and lonely to face the holiday season. It’s hard when my foster children expect me to provide a big celebration with family, but I too am a foreigner in this country without family here. It’s a humbling experience to see us all longing for that love during the holidays and realizing that we can turn to each other to find it. There are many reasons why someone might feel lonelier or anxious during the holidays, some people may not have family, some might have lost a loved one, some might live far away, and some might be reminded of a depressing period of their life. All of these memories and emotions get stirred up during the holidays, while we stand and watch others happy and joyous. This can bring on a roller coaster of emotions while painful wounds open up inside of us reminding us of what we have lost or lack.
I sat here thinking the other day, “none of the children have even asked about the holidays or any plans I might have for us”. This is because most children in the foster care system have either never gotten the chance to celebrate the holidays or associate the holidays with bad experiences. Sometimes the children ask me those tough questions like, “why can’t I see my family on Thanksgiving”? And I truly don’t know how to answer them. It’s heartbreaking to explain to them that we just ‘can’t’, because to them - they don’t understand why, they just feel abandoned. As you can imagine these children have a lot of pent-up anger with all of these emotions that float around during the holidays. They get irritated easily, shut down emotionally, and just overall have a short fuse during these times. And as much as I want to sit there and tell them everything will be ok; I also understand that nagging sadness these times can bring.
So how do we cope with this sadness, and how do we try and find joy in such dark times? It's hard to bury those feelings of being sad when you hear other children or even adults talk about how excited they are about the holidays when you have either lost your family, or don’t have much of a family. While there is sadness at times- there is also joy in being able to find new happiness. Creating new ways to celebrate with new people who love you.
I asked my kids what they thought about Thanksgiving, and they all had similar answers. The younger kids miss their mom and wish they could see her. Kai expressed that his family never really celebrated Thanksgiving because of their finances but, he would be delighted if he could see his sisters. Anthony had mentioned that some kids within the foster care system might feel alone and not appreciated during the holidays. All of their answers were heart-wrenching. And even though they have had different experiences, they all long for the same love and affection every day- especially on the holidays.
Family is everything. But that does not mean 'Family' has to be blood-related. Family comes in all shapes and sizes, and I am very grateful for the family I have created with my foster children. We may experience times of sadness during the holiday season, but the silver lining is that we have each other. I hope that my children get to experience many happier holidays, and I hope my readers will continue to spread love, joy, and kindness this season.