By Sherry Saturno, LCSW, DCSW, LNHA
The holidays are stressful for anyone who has family. Holidays are equally trying for those of us who do not have family. Everyone knows that you can’t choose your family, but you have the power to control what effect family has upon your life, and set boundaries regarding behaviors that you will or won’t accept.
Can you make a family out of friends?
Absolutely. Through the love and support of your friends, you can create something that is healthy and meaningful. What are the first steps?
• Reframe your thinking. Open your mind. Family does not mean only one thing. Family is more than biology. Family is who has your back, and who is there for you in good and bad times. If you are estranged from family, take small steps to connect more closely with other people in your life.
How can you establish your Friend Family?
• Value the people that you have in your life and express what they mean to you. Don’t hesitate to tell them how important they are to you. Your Friend Family can be small. Two people? Fantastic! We’re after quality, not quantity.
It’s the holidays, and I’m lonely. What do I do?
• Acknowledge that holidays can be difficult. Some days are going to be tough. Accept any invitations that come your way and just say yes. Make plans in advance and keep them. Celebrate holidays on your own terms, and if that means a movie marathon with your friend, break out the popcorn.
• Recognize that loneliness is a feeling and not a permanent state of being.
• Understand that you are not alone, and many people share your feelings.
• Choose to be the hero of your life, not the victim. You have to be willing to fight for the life that you want, and take risks to achieve it.
• Rethink your expectations. Steer clear from Hallmark movies about perfect holidays.
• Be kind to yourself but practice tough love. Don’t allow yourself to wallow in self-pity. You’re alone on Thanksgiving? Go to a food pantry and help people in need celebrate the holiday. When you lose yourself in helping others, you will find something greater than yourself.
• Use technology to connect with others in similar situations. Need someone to talk to? Try engaging in friendly phone calls, and check out
• Be grateful for every day. Tomorrow is not a guarantee.
• Consider meeting with a professional counselor to talk about how you feel.
Anais Nin wrote, “The secret to a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow.”
Create new traditions and don’t look back. You can do it.
Sherry Saturno is the Executive Director of Gramatan Village in Bronxville. She is dually licensed as a Nursing Home Administrator and Clinical Social Worker, and holds Master’s degrees from Columbia and Long Island Universities. www.gramatanvillage.org