DEAR NATALIE: No one likes my sister’s new boyfriend but she’s insisting on bringing him to our family Christmas gathering. He’s obnoxious, loud and argumentative. On top of that, they insist on being all over each other and it grosses everyone out. My mom and I were complaining about it to our dad the other day. He said, “If no one likes him, why did we invite him?” Obviously because we want my sister to be there. She doesn’t know that everyone is bothered by him. Do you think there is a tactful way of saying: “We don’t want him there?” They’ve only been together six months. How can we work around this? –SISTER SAGA
DEAR SISTER SAGA: The reality is, you better have a chair with his name on it come this holiday. Here’s why: The more you share your dislike for him, the more you will push her right into his arms. Sounds like she is still in the honeymoon phase wearing some thick rose-colored glasses. Instead of “un”-inviting him, you could tell them to come an hour later so you can have a little respite – and some time to hit the eggnog – before their arrival. You don’t have to like him. You just have to tolerate him for a few hours. And who knows? Maybe a few hours with the family is just what she needs to see to realize that he might not be a fit in the long run. Just let it be her idea.
DEAR NATALIE: My dad died recently and unexpectedly. He was the rock of the family and I’m not sure how to go on without him in my life. He was my best friend. Since his death, my family has been trying to push through the holidays, but I have no interest in celebrating them. My mother says it’ll be healing to have the whole family around, but I don’t know if I have it in me to sit there, knowing that he isn’t going to be at the table. My older sister says that I’m being selfish and not recognizing that my mom needs support, too. Knowing that just makes me feel even more depressed. I don’t know what to do to get out of this headspace, but I’m just not feeling the holidays at all this year. Can I just cancel Christmas? –BAH HUMBUG
DEAR BAH HUMBUG: My dad died three years ago and I know how this feels. The first set of holidays felt like some weird blur – like a bad, foggy dream we were all stuck in. I felt like I couldn’t think or see clearly for a long time. Therapy helped. Being around people who loved me helped. Moping helped, too. The reality is, no one can dictate your grieving process for you. It is fine if you want to sit this one out. It is fine if you want to go visit your mom for an hour beforehand or if you want to share another day with her that week that isn’t so emotionally charged. What’s funny is that as you move through the process, you will notice that some holidays will be easy. Other days – random sunny or rainy days – will trigger your sadness. And that’s okay, too. It isn’t linear. I don’t think we ever get over the death of loved ones. Instead, we simply grow around the grief. Do what you need to do to get through the day. You may feel differently next week or the morning of. Give yourself space and grace. But please don’t feel like you can’t reach out to either a friend, a family member or a professional who can walk the road with you. Your dad would want you to live your life fully.
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