Tag Archive for: holidays

Winter holidays involve light to provide comfort and hope

Light and Hope

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been struck by the number of holidays that take place during what in the Northern Hemisphere is the darkest time of the year and all the things they have in common. To me, it starts with Diwali, which is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs around the world. For five days, Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. Many people are familiar with the Jewish tradition of Hanukkah, which is also known as the Festival of Lights. Some Christians celebrate Advent, in which candles are lit, adding one each consecutive Sunday for the four Sundays before Christmas. During the Winter Solstice, some folks light paper lanterns, which they release in community festivals. Kwanzaa involves lighting candles and families and communities coming together.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Winter can be really challenging for many people. With the cold and darkness, we’re more biologically vulnerable to experiencing intense emotions. Add to that the expectations of how things “should” be, challenging relationship dynamics, financial concerns, and (as always) the capitalist expectation that despite all our obligations, we still need to be ‘productive,’ and you’ve got a terrible storm to weather!

Weathering it Together, or Light and Hope

All these traditions are about light. It’s funny how many figures of speech there are about light: in light of something, to bring something to light, the light of someone’s life, shed light on something, light a fire under someone, et cetera. Light is so important during these dark times, but more importantly, community is important. We know that people succeed when they are given appropriate support, whether it’s in recovery from substance misuse, independent living with an intellectual disability, or overall mental health.

Along with light and community, there is hope. Hope that the darkness will not overcome us. Hope that tomorrow will be just a little bit brighter. When I was in my training program, one of my mentors called therapists ‘keepers and cultivators of hope.’ I love that as not just a job description but as a life philosophy. At True North, we aim to cultivate hope with our clients. Sometimes that means holding hope for them when they become too overwhelmed to hold it themselves. I’d like to end these thoughts with my favorite Emily Dickinson poem:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—

That perches in the soul—

And sings the tune without the words—

And never stops—at all—


And the sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—

And sore must be the storm—

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm—


I’ve heard it in the chilliest land—

And on the strangest Sea—

Yet—never—in Extremity,

It asked a crumb—of me.


This blog was written by True North’s Clinical Director, Jennifer Kendrick. Jennifer is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Indiana and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Kentucky. Learn more or get in touch here.

Family & Life Hacks for the Holidays

The Holidays are coming and most people have a love/hate relationship with them. We love the food, the lights, and the sentimental feelings that come with them, but hate the stress, the drama, and the sentimental feelings that come with them. Whats more, few things can be more painful than celebrating the holidays without a lost loved one or after a tragedy.

I’ve compiled some suggestions for getting through the upcoming Holiday season. As they say in the many treatment groups, “Take what you like and leave the rest.” I hope they can make these next 6-8 weeks more meaningful and restful.

1. Lower your Expectations

Whatever your thinking about HOW the Holidays should unfold, cleanse your mind of those thoughts.

2. Traditions are Evil

There I said it. More families have more fights over TRADITIONS than anything else. Nothing is worth losing your peace and quiet!

3. Get off the Family and Office Gift Exchange

It’s a waste of money. I have sadly listened to many families that waste lots of money buying gifts for extended families members. I have 8 siblings and 50 plus nieces and nephews. We decided 40 years ago to NOT do the exchange. Best family decision we’ve ever made. I have always opted out to the office “white elephant” exchanges. I have never regretted that decision.

4. Decorate your House For You, Not for Anybody Else

Put your tree up when you want it up. Take it down when you want it down. Keeping up with the neighbors is a trap. Don’t do it.

5. Do not “Charge” the Holidays

If you limit your gift buying to cash, you’ll come out the other end much happier.

6. There is No One Reason for The Season

There are “Reasons” for the season. You get to decide. There are religious reasons. There are family reasons. There are cultural, and personal, and altruistic reasons. It can be whatever you want. I find meaning in the New Year’s Day Holiday. It gives me a chance to reflect on the past year and dream about the new.

7. Make Amends

Do not let another Holiday Season pass, being at odds with a family member or friends. Those hurting relationships will rob you of your joy during this season.

Slow down. Take a Deep Breath. Relax. Do Nothing. Forget the concerts. Forget the scenic drives. Forget the Holiday Party. Forget the Mall. Forget the congested traffic. Forget the holiday movies. Try to do as little as possible this Holiday season. Stay at home and simply enjoy the quiet evenings with your family and loved ones.

Don’t be afraid if you and your kids get a little bored. Boredom can be a motivating force for creativity. Do not feel pressure to entertain your kids every second during the Holiday-School break. Worse-case scenario: They’ll look forward to getting back to school.

Get Outside. Walk, hike, stroll, sit on a park bench, lay under the stars, visit the many parks in Louisville, have a winter picnic. Seriously, get off your butt this Holiday Season! You’re most likely going to eat more. That’s okay! Enjoy the food. Enjoy the Thanksgiving and Holiday meals.

Then get out and walk. Go into the forests. Do a special walk on Thanksgiving morning or New Year’s Day.