Holiday Excuses

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After this article you will find resources for surviving the holidays from the December 2011 issue of “Surviving Spirit.” To subscribe, go to

Many of us have families of origin who expect us to join them for holidays, both the traditional days when families gather and the secret cult holidays. Some of us still want to go, hoping against hope that this time will be different. It rarely is different, but it’s really hard to give up this particular hope.

Many people, however, don’t want to be with their families but don’t know how to refuse the invitation. There can be a tremendous amount of pressure to “come home,” especially if you live close by. Some would love to say, “No, I don’t like you and I never want to see you again, for that matter,” but are not yet ready for such heavy confrontation.

It’s okay to choose your battles and there’s never any need to feel guilty for making excuses in order to protect yourself.

Here are some of the reasons that others have used to turn down unwanted invitations. Perhaps you will find one that looks useful or perhaps these suggestions will encourage your own creativity.

“I’m too broke.” “My car is dying.” (This won’t work, of course, if your parents are the type to send you money.)

“I have to work that day.” “I have to stay at school because I am behind and have three papers to write.” “So and so is sick and is counting on me.” “I think I might have to be hospitalized then.” (Not so far fetched; you might be too regressed or too depressed to travel at that time.)

“I have to, at some point, become independent and learn how to celebrate for myself. I can’t be dependent on you forever.” Believe it or not, this was what worked for me!!!

“Oh, I am so sorry. I forgot.” “I was out dancing and had such fun I lost track of the time.” “I meant to come, but, well, um, well, I really don’t know what happened.”

Accept the invitation and then get violently ill at the last minute.

It’s helpful to analyze your family and then guess what approach will work best with them. What’s worked in the past? What are their professed values? Is there some way you can manipulate them into supporting your decision? Can you trade in on your reputation of being absent-minded or fragile?

It’s also helpful to look within yourself and see if you can be true to your own values. It’s great to keep yourself safe; it’s even greater to do it in a way that makes you feel good inside.

For myself, I don’t like to lie. It’s the old way of life, and I want no more deceit and untruths in my life. When my parents were alive, I managed to make my “excuses” the truth, if not the whole truth. Many times when I said I was sick, it was anxiety, not the flu, that was the cause of my illness, for example.

I wish each and every one of us safe holidays this year and in all the years to come.

Survivorship Notes, December, 1999

1] “Surviving the Holidays” – The California Black Women’s Health Project [CABWHP] – Healing for the Mind, Body & Soul – publishes issue guides with thorough analyses of health policy issues addressing mental, emotional and physical health. [Incredible website – lots of information & resources!!!]

2] “Dread nots: surviving the holidays with spirit intact” – Escape the holiday dreads: handling family and stress – by Marcia Eckerd, Ph.D.

3] Gift From Within – PTSD Resources for Survivors and Caregivers – How to Cope with PTSD and the Holiday Season

4] Holiday Celebrating with Post Traumatic Stress

Holiday Survival Tips for Dysfunctional Families

5] “Surviving the Holidays” – by Grief Share, an international network of grief recovery support groups.

6] Find help and healing for the hurt of separation and divorce. Divorce Care – “Surviving the Holidays”

7] Tidings of Conflict and Joy: Surviving the Holidays – By Brett R. Williams, MFT


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