The holidays are in full swing, the stores are bustling with holiday shoppers, moms are baking their traditional Christmas butter cookies, but not all seems right with the world — not in our post-Sandy world.
How do we get through what are suppose to be festive days with friends and family and even ourselves while worrying about when they, or we, can return to our homes, our normal lives, our ordinary routines?
To get some answers and some suggestions about how to deal with — and even enjoy — this time of year, the Herald spoke to two experts in the field, Paul Engel, Ph.D., a social worker with the Foundation for Religion and Mental Health, and Social Worker Neil Henry, the director of the Baldwin Counseling Center.
The holidays are here, but many of us are still living with the after-effects of the hurricane. How do we deal with this? Engel: Whether you are back in your home and rebuilding or still living elsewhere, there’s no doubt that everyone is affected in some way. In fact, it can be months or years before life returns to normal. But the holidays are a time of tradition, and the routine of that tradition can be very helpful in getting back of a sense of control over your life. Remember, the reasons for celebration haven’t changed — it’s just the circumstances are different.
How can a family observe the holidays if they’re not in their own homes? What if we have others living with us temporarily?
Engel: Keep as many of the regular traditions as possible, but be creative in recognizing that this year is different because of the hurricane. If you’ve got more people in the house than normal, give everyone their own area to decorate so that everyone feels as if they’re part of the festivities. Let everyone pick a dish to cook — you’ll have a bigger meal with some new and some familiar foods. If finances are a consideration this year, suggest that people make gifts or limit their list to just one or two items. Just as with other activities, attempts at bringing back the familiar will help in the healing process.
Some people have said they want to “observe” the holidays but feel guilty about “celebrating.” What would you say to them?