Nurturing Relationships After Holiday Gatherings

By Stacie Prada

Family relationships are hard. I look back at decades of immediate and extended family holiday gatherings, and I notice what has changed and what seems like a given. Long-held disconnects or resentments lie beneath the surface and feel ready to erupt at any moment.

Consider as mere mortals, it’s rare to be perfect in these moments. I’ve left family gatherings spending huge amounts of time thinking about what was said, what wasn’t said, and what pushed my buttons. I’ve lectured myself about what I should have done differently and how I shouldn’t let people’s comments or opinions anger me. I’ve been relieved when it’s over and I won’t need to deal with it again until the next holiday.

Dropping it until the next time I see them again prevents me from having a different experience next time.

When I worked in a wood shop and made mistakes, I’d default to reminding myself: “Being good at a craft isn’t about doing everything perfectly; it’s about knowing how to fix mistakes.”

I’ve taken to applying this concept to relationships. While I wouldn’t call an interaction a mistake, I will acknowledge plenty of times where I wish I’d reacted differently in a situation. Instead of a mistake, I’ll call it letting my frustrations show. While those moments are uncomfortable and possibly embarrassing, they’re consistently opportunities to open a dialogue and nurture relationships.

When asked how a recent holiday gathering went, I joked that no one killed each other and we all still love each other. While tears were shed and shocking comments were made, I was blown away that in each moment someone acted with grace and stayed in the conversation. It’s that grace that heartened me and inspired me to follow up with people after the event. Some were earnest conversations while others where quick comments during a hug. “I’m proud of you.” “Thank you for being kind when that was said to you.” “I love you.”

While I’m tempted to write a note instead of talking to them, I see a huge benefit to saying these things instead of sending a one-way written note. Saying it to them gives them the chance to respond without a lot of extra effort. It invites more reflection and conversation without demanding it.

I can acknowledge what hurts while knowing with certainty that we’re all doing our best in each moment. I don’t need to behave perfectly, and neither does anyone else. If someone shows frustration and behaves poorly, I can listen and know they must need to say it. I can lead with grace by letting them say all they need to say and showing compassion for their pain. Whether I agree or not isn’t the point. I’m choosing to keep this relationship, and helping people have their cathartic moments has helped us move on from some of those past hurts.

Yes, I joked that we didn’t kill each other the last time we were together. Yet I am extremely proud of how far we’ve all come in how we interact. We spend more time listening and showing compassion for each other. We’re having the hard conversations that need to happen if we want to nurture our relationships. We’ve been through a lot individually and collectively, and I’m grateful we keep coming back.

Being good at relationships isn’t about being perfect. It’s about nurturing them with sincerity and kindness when they’re not as good as we’d like them to be and when they’re already great.

*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 at the age of 38. Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at stacieprada.blogspot.com

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Comments

  • Kimmy says:

    Thank you for the inspiration! I’ve never been one to comment on these type of blogs. However, this particular one spoke to me and I felt a need to comment. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 25 years ago. It’s taken most of my eye sight . It’s life and I deal the best way I can. The uncountable relationships I’ve lost is painful, I still keep pressing along. My family is absolutely the most dysfunctional, negative and exhausting one could ever experience. I could write a best selling comedy. You have to laugh to keep from crying. We lost my younger sister tragically, my only sibling and a best friend right after the holiday’s a couple of years ago, which absolutely turned the already dysfunction into insane anger, resulting in non adaptiveness to anyone’s feelings. Additionally causing constant turmoil and utter anxiety. You can immensely love people, it does not mean you have to be around them. I’ve learned to distance myself, and do what is best for my mental health. Other relationships have suffered as well, friends have walked away because they did not know how to comprehend what MS was or does to someone. My best friend of 40 years walked out of my life after the loss of my sister. I overwhelmed her with my grief. So not only was I grieving over my sister, I found myself grieving the loss of my ride or die, my person, another sister.

    I could buy a luxury car with the money spent in therapy. I too always felt the need to write a letter or send an email. Positive and loving, never pointing fingers or accusing. I have an immense need to want to know WHY. I’ve learned over the last few years, the why is not important. I’ve always been one to blame myself, questioning what did I do wrong. Most times than not, I did nothing wrong. If I did, I absolutely own it! Excuses equate to immaturity, therefore I save time and energy for both parties. Even though the intent to reach out and discuss issues or feelings in a letter and was only meant in true sincerity, I found the other person can become resentful, feeling as if they were being attacked. As you stated, verbal communication face to face is best. And if people are meant to be in your life they will be. We all have choices. There are reasons and seasons for certain people to be in your life. Diligent prayer and committed faith in God has gotten me through. Some people are spiritual, some religious and some don’t believe in a higher power. God works for me! This correspondence is not intended to promote God or religion nor is it in anyway a ploy for sympathy. I have no desire for anyone to feel sorry for me.

    A word you repeated several times, was “mistake”. Please know there are no mistakes in life, only lessons. We learn, we grow, we choose what is good for us and what is not. Sometimes trying to “fix” relationships is pointless. It’s broken for a reason. An additional lesson I have learned; no response, is the best response.

    Thanks in advance for taking the time to read my comment.
    Be blessed and Happy New Year.

    Kimmy Broussard

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