Before You Assume They Are A Scrooge…

We are coming up now on two of the biggest, family-orientated holidays of the year: Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Yes, the stores already started reminding us back as early as August and September, but after Halloween passes is when it really sets in.  For some, it generates feelings of excitement and anticipation, of wanting to get decorations up to “change the mood” in their homes and offices, and even shopping for presents to be able to have it done way ahead of schedule.  But for others, the ones that some people may even label a “Scrooge,” it’s a time of year they dread and want to run away from rather than be reminded.

But, before you make judgments and apply labels, do you really know why those people “hate” the holidays?  Or are you assuming based on their words and actions?

I bring this up because too many times people assume (remember that old saying when you assume!) and don’t stop to realize that some of these people are hurting.  The movie “A Christmas Carol” brought up a valid point for people to consider: that sometimes it’s the hurts from a person’s past that cause them to be the way they are. Even Jim Carrey’s “The Grinch” taught us that as well.  But, that’s not the only reason.

I have watched so many friends, co-workers, and even just acquaintances loose close friends or loved ones this year, be it to cancer or just suddenly out of the blue.  For those of us that have lost a loved one, we talk about getting through the “year of firsts”…the first birthday, the first anniversary and the first Thanksgiving and Christmas without them.  The “firsts” are the hardest because it really drives it home that they are gone and now you have to carry on without them.  You want to stay strong, put on a brave face and act like you can handle it, but the truth is it hurts and all the decorations and people talking about their holiday plans gets overwhelming.  It’s not that people do it intentionally, but because those that have lost a loved one have been trying to push forward and move on with their lives, never revealing the inner pain they are still carrying around…especially during the year of firsts.

When I lost my Dad, it was 3 months before Thanksgiving.  His siblings and my cousins all talked about how weird it was that he wasn’t there but I felt like he was just on vacation somewhere.  The full grief hadn’t hit me yet…until Christmas.  That was his favorite holiday and that is when I really felt his absence.  I didn’t even put up holiday decorations that year because I wasn’t in a celebratory mood.  But, I just needed to get through the “firsts” to be able to start enjoying the holidays again. (Yes, it’s only November but I am ready to put my Christmas decorations up!)

Take a look around your office: Do you have co-workers that lost loved ones this year?  Have you ever stopped to wonder how they may be feeling right now?

I’m not saying go and try to counsel them or handle them with kid gloves, but pay attention as the days get closer to these two holidays.  Know when you may want to hold back on some of that holiday cheer and when to just simply know they need their space.  Some may want to talk about it – if they do, give them an ear to listen.  Others won’t want to draw attention to themselves – respect that and just try not to overdo it around them this year.  If they don’t want to participate in the holiday party, for example, accept it and don’t try to take them into it.  They will get there again, when they are ready.

The lesson of Scrooge still holds true: You don’t always know what others are feeling inside that makes them how they are around the holidays…but that doesn’t mean its permanent.

Author: Barb Buckner

Over 15 years of experience as a strategic Human Resource Professional with a proven history of implementing HR strategies and managing employee relations, process improvement and compliance. A reputation for leveraging business relationships, engaging the workforce and creating a positive return on investment into HR initiatives.

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