Holiday guilt trips


The family guilt trips about all coming together started earlier this year than usual with a group to text to all the siblings from my brother announcing a command performance of family love and unity for Christmas. My therapist has already asked me to really think about how healthy it will be for me to make the trip if I do because going back to where I grew up triggers so many memories for me that I generally come back deeply depressed or suicidal.

But I also know that if I don't go, I won't see my daughter at all for the holidays (and won't have actually seen her since last Thanksgiving. My son due to COVID will have a longer winter break between semesters so I will get to see them but I wouldn't get to spend Christmas with them. Sorry to be so down about the holidays so early in the season, I just hate this time of year for so many reasons and returning to my home town where those memories were made doesn't help.


You aren't being 'down' about the holidays, you are being honest. I dread the holidays every year.

I'm sure you will make the choice that is right for you and the place you are in your life. At some point, in order to heal, we have to pick ourselves. You have time to think about if it will be worth it as the downside is what you have to deal with when you leave.


I am still struggling with any thought of the holiday season this year. COVID doesn't help, my father will be turning 82 three days before Christmas but has been part of the US deniers groups saying that the disease is not that bad, that it is just one group attempting to use scare tactics to influence the election etc. Of course he has the comfort of living in a very sparsely populated area of the US with less than 3,000 people in the 1,000 sq mile county in which he lives so they have not been hit like other areas and it is easy to say that it has been overhyped. But a trip like this at the holidays would include my either driving straight through 17-19 hours (depending upon stops) or flying including a layover and final landing in two of three of the larger US airports of Chicago, Dallas and Denver. Flying would also require a rental vehicle with a 5 hour drive from the airport which would of course mean additional stops.

If I go to "the farm" it will mean family members from 10 different households and 24 individuals converging all in one location not exactly a superspreader event but not exactly promoting social distancing either. I feel like I can't win no matter what I do so I will most likely procrastinate until I have no choice but to make the trip and placate the others.


What would happen if you chose your own saftey and saving the expense to not go?

Surely with that many people they can set up zoom for you to talk with everyone and still feel ok about not going.

I have been invited to a Bday surprise party for a very good friend. It involves travel and money I really don't have. I do not want to put myself in danger. It's just that simple. And the people there have not been taking even rudimentary precautions.

I know there will be dissapointment. But I answered my delima by asking if all those people would do the same for me, and the answer was no. It is me picking me.

And not that these people don't love me. It would be a major inconvience to most of them. Doesn't mean you don't love your family. Or feel obligated which is different.

How about this. I give you permission not to go. Does that help? If you won't give yourself permission then I don't mind making that choice for you.

But kidding aside, your first obligation is to yourself. This is not normal times. Everyone has to make sacrifices and make adjustments. Hope you give yourself permission to do what is, in the long run, the best thing for you.


It sounds like you really value your family but I hope you are also valuing your personal safety and needs. You have mentioned being uncomfortable with the thought of going, and I am just gently reminding you that you truly have the power over yourself to choose whatever you wish, without needing to justify it to anyone.
Your family can feel however they do about your decision if you choose to not go- but their feelings are their responsibility, not yours. Your responsibility is to yourself first and foremost.

If you know that when you visit there you end up feeling triggered, depressed and suicidal, then it doesnt sound like a good environment for you to be in, especially with the added stress of the pandemic, potential family drama and holiday stress and political unrest.

I used to dread holidays with my family as well. It was just something I went through and tolerated feeling uncomfortable with, because they expected me to be there. Realizing I can choose to do what is best for me, without having to explain it to others, is a life changer.

There may be other options if you still want to connect with your family, such as video chatting with your daughter.

If you do end up choosing to go, I hope you have some good boundaries and self care set in place- such as taking time away from the rest of the family if you need some quiet time to center yourself, etc.


I think it’s a good idea on the part of your therapist... especially as it works as a trial-run with the blame-elsewhere. IE It’s not about your issues with your family, the farm, the area, trauma, stress, PTSD, suicide, etc... but the pandemic. A nice big fat piece of distance between yourself & your reasons. With the added benefit of also being true. Not the whole truth, but still more truth than attempting to guilt trip/ bully someone into doing something they don’t want to do rates.

Aaaaaand it gives you the party line to take with anyone, with dozens of different variations for different moods. Serious, sappy, apologetic, funny, mischevious, regretful, frustrated, stiff upper lip. etc. Each tailored to the person you’re talking to. Playing politics isn’t something you’re bad at. Speak to what speaks to them. Always blaming the pandemic, but in ways they can relate to.

“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t live with myself if I got all y’all sick.”

“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t live with myself if I got all y’all sick.... Well. Except for Josh. ;) I think we can give Josh ‘the Covid’, right?”

“The farm should be a sanctuary, & not have big city germs oozing all over it!”

“You know my job. If I travel, I have to take 2 weeks off to quarantine before I can return to work, even though we both know I’d be fine, it’s the law I’m sworn to uphold... and that leaves a lot of people in the lurch who are already stretched too thin, and being asked too much of. I know as much as we all want to see each other, you wouldn’t want me to shirk my responsibilities, & act like some (selfish tree hugging wingnut liberal / right wing whackadoodle nutjob / pick the party of their disdain and insert here ).”

Et cetera
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returning to my home town where those memories were made doesn't help

My sister and I have had to make other plans regarding family events, at times. There have also been times where she has showed up and I have not and vice versa because we both know it's going to be shit but one or the other of us caves into the guilt pretty regularly because it seems like the "right" thing to do at the time. We catch up with one another later swearing "never again, never again!" For us, it's just never worth it but we do want to see each other, so we find ways to make that happen. Though, admittedly, it's not around the holidays.

I just can't anymore. I'm not good at pretending and I don't like doing it. The self-protection makes sense for me, so I just don't touch that hot stove anymore. Maybe you can find ways to nurture the relationships that you value when you can and make it a new special time of the year? I don't know all of the circumstances, obviously, but this has worked pretty well for me.


I started coming up with reasons not to attend family gatherings when I was in college. I had to work. It was true. It was also true I went out of my way to make sure any and all of my co-workers knew they could have Christmas/Thanksgiving/whatever off, if they wanted. That was pretty liberating and really was a good first step towards getting my life sorted out. (Still working on that.....)

You've got to do what seems right and possible for YOU. Just wanted you to know it can be a GOOD thing, even if it's not real easy to start with. It gets easier! I ultimately skipped my mother's funeral because I just couldn't see the point in walking in to get a target on my back. I guess I'm supposed to feel bad about that, but I don't.

I know your family situation is REALLY complicated. I can't remember what your daughter knows & doesn't know and how that dynamic sorts out. (Personally, I'D rather spend the holidays with you than with them!) Maybe she can fit you into her schedule? I've found it useful to think of stuff like this as "an experiment". Try something different. If it doesn't work? It was an experiment, you learned something, you can always try something different or go back to the original plan. It's just and experiment.