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Remember, It’s not the Most Wonderful Time of Year for Everyone.

  • Post category:DEI

By David Rosynsky, WestCare’s DEI Staff Workgroup

Recently, while browsing in a department store, a sales associate asked about my Thanksgiving plans. I mentioned keeping it low-key, prompting her to ask why, and about my family size. I found myself thinking, “Who is this, Barbara Walters?” In an effort to end the exchange I shared that my dad’s passing before Thanksgiving years ago has always dampened the holiday for my family. “So, no turkey then?” she replied. “Nope, no turkey,” I responded.

On another occasion I was out with a friend who lost her husband last December and whose son is battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As we drove past a Christmas tree lot, she expressed her longing for December to end swiftly.

Reflecting on these experiences, it becomes clear: the holiday season, often anticipated as a time of joy, can also carry significant lows.

Interestingly, this topic holds significant relevance to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), especially within the realm of behavioral health and human services. In our professional roles, and just as importantly in our personal lives, embracing DEI means actively acknowledging and respecting the varied holiday experiences of those around us.

The holiday season can pose various challenges, including managing recovery from substance use and behavioral health disorders, dealing with financial stress or job loss, and navigating family conflicts (like estrangement and divorce) or struggling with health issues or trauma. Loneliness often becomes more pronounced during this period. Additionally, those with neurodevelopmental disorders or intellectual disabilities might struggle with routine changes and sensory overload. Like co-occurring disorders, it’s common for individuals to face several of these challenges simultaneously.

For those grappling with these complexities, accessing supportive coping strategies or professional help is crucial. Equally important is the role of family, friends, and colleagues in providing a supportive environment. Responding with acceptance and understanding, rather than judgment, is central to fostering inclusivity.

Supporting family, friends, colleagues, and those we serve who may experience the holiday season differently can be achieved through various means. These include offering a listening ear without judgment and validating their feelings and experiences, planning inclusive gatherings that consider everyone’s preferences and asking about their holiday observances, and respecting personal boundaries, including understanding if someone opts out of events, while refraining from making dismissive comments. Additionally, creating new, inclusive traditions or celebrations for those who may not engage in conventional holiday activities and checking in with a simple message to show you care, a gesture that can be especially meaningful after the holidays, are also effective ways to support others during this time.

Ultimately, the festive season is about togetherness, joy, and celebration, but it’s also a time for empathy, thoughtfulness, and inclusion. By being mindful of the individual feelings and preferences of those around us, we can strive to make December a month where everyone feels seen, heard, and respected.

You are not alone.

Text or Call 988 anytime for free and confidential support. Visit to learn more. The 988 Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential emotional support for people in distress. *Resources are also available for Spanish-speaking individuals and individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

If you are a WestCare Employee: For 24/7 Employee Assistance and Wellness Support call (800) 344-9752 or contact for information about registering on