With the holiday season approaching, we know that the focus for most celebrants will be about getting together with family to share this special time of year while they reminisce the past year and create new memories. However, for many former Jehovah’s Witnesses this will not be the case due to the Watchtower’s shunning policy.
And, while most of us never celebrated holidays in our JW lives, the pull towards enjoying family holidays seems like an elusive dream, even though we’re now free to celebrate. We know that some people (JW or not) find this time of year brings on depression and a sense of loss—more so than at other times of the year.
Mayo Clinic offers several suggestions on how to cope with holiday stress and depression, including acknowledging any sense of loss you may feel. If “…you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.”
I found one of the most practical of tips to be to “take a breather.” We all need some quiet time. The folks at Mayo tell us to make some time for ourselves. “Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.”
Over the years some in the ex-JW community have found great joy in exchanging cards or small gifts (even across the ocean), as well as Skyping, and calling one another to share good wishes and banter. This extended family of the heart can make holidays a more enjoyable time, as I’ve personally experienced with many friends I’ve made through online ex-JW groups.
I’ve heard from many former Witnesses that reaching out to others during the holidays is a great way to help minimize depression. Many volunteer to work in a soup kitchen, ring bells for charity, host others who may be without families for the holidays, create cards for shut-ins or those who may be in the hospital, or visit the elderly in a nursing home. Research proves that doing things for others helps with depression. “There’s a lot of good research that shows these kinds of actions can have a positive impact on life. In general, people who help others stop focusing on their own pains and problems and worries and feel good about themselves.”–Dr. Michelle Riba, former president of the American Psychiatric Association, as quoted in U.S. News – Health
However, remember if things get too overwhelming during the holidays or any time of year, help is only a phone call away. Crisis centers are available in most locations, and they are ready to help any time—night or day.
International Suicide Crisis Hotlines
USA: 1-800-784-2433–Web: http://www.suicidehotlines.com/
UK: 08457 90 90 90
France: 01 45 39 40 00–Web: http://suicide.ecoute.free.fr/
Australia: 1300 13 11 14– Web: http://www.lifeline.org.au/
New Zealand: (9) 5222-999 within Auckland, 0800 111-777 outside Auckland–Web: http://www.lifeline.org.nz/
Germany: 0800 – 111 0 111 (ev.) (protestant), 0800 – 111 0 222 (rk.), (roman catholic), 0800 – 111 0 333
(Kinder / Jugendliche) (for kids/teens)–Web: http://www.telefonseelsorge.de/
Netherlands: 0900-1450 (workdays, 0900-1800 local (CET))–Web: http://www.korrelatie.nl/
Belgium: 02 649 95 55 (24/7)–Web: http://www.zelfmoordpreventie.be/index.php