Second close-up of pictureFamilies are wonderful gifts from God. We need our beloved relatives, however they are related to us and wherever they may be. But sometimes, family relationships can be strained, and holiday time is prime fight time – when family members gather from far and near, and old wounds get reopened (or new ones inflicted).

There are as many reasons for family fights as there are members in a clan. But two of the feuds that can be connected with chronic illness or pain are often over favoritism and  fallacy. Favoritism, because sometimes the person with chronic illness might get more attention than other family members, and this can stir up rivalries and resentment. Fallacy, because often a person with chronic illness or pain does not look sick, and others might have a very difficult time believing that he or she cannot run outside and build a snowman, mind a baby that has a bad cold, or do other “heavy lifting” that healthy people might be expected to do.

Favoritism can be tough to get around. If a family member has a very serious health condition, he or she might very well take up a lot of the attention of other family members. Being hospitalized or confined to rehab at the holidays might require moving the party from home to the healthcare facility, or postponing the party until later, when everyone can participate. I think the most successful situations I’ve witnessed involve caring family support and a “sick” person who understands that he or she must also be as caring as possible, encouraging others to take time for themselves and the other members of the family, and emphasizing the charity that is inherent in the Christmas season. This requires inner grace on the part of the person with chronic illness, and it also requires true and compassionate communication. But it can be a good way to diffuse the resentment others might feel, and bring some peace to the sufferer, too.

Fallacy is also difficult to resolve, but for another reason: I’ve found that those who doubt someone is “really” sick will often not believe it even if they sat down with the patient’s physician and had a long consultation. Some people will just never get it. And for those of us on the other side, the side where illness and pain are stark realities, the best we can do is pray for the doubters and keep to our health regimen, as prescribed by our physicians. It’s never a good idea to sacrifice yourself and your health just because others around think you’re making up your illness and the restrictions it poses on you. I’ve turned down invitations because I knew that the party environment would not be healthful for me, and I’ve refrained from imbibing and other activities because I know that even holiday cheer can cause longer-term problems.

As people who carry significant health burdens, we need to look at the holiday time as a period of light, joy, comfort and renewal of spirit. It’s all right to say “no” to others who would take these graces away. And it’s all right to try to build bridges of peace by entering into the give and take of truly nourishing family relationships. Above all, it’s all right to be good to ourselves and others – now and throughout the new year to come.




More from Beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad