Life Coach For Immigrants

Podcast • Empowerment for Immigrants • Holidays

Imagine, enjoying the holiday celebrations, and not feeling guilty because once again you are not with your family in the country of origin. A few days designed exactly for honoring your traditions, enjoying the foods you really love, with people who appreciate your roots… rejoicing.  Is that even possible? Why not? Want to find out how to do that? Listen to this podcast. 

I give you a solid list of questions that will help you make this a reality. 

Don’t just rush into yet another time of celebrations feeling overwhelmed, guilty and tired. You deserve to feel loved, whole and taken care of.


Episode #5 - Spending holidays in a foreign country.


Hi everyone, this is Ewelina Life Coach for Immigrants and today we are going to talk about the holiday season. Holidays are stressful enough, choosing the right gifts, buying them, wrapping, decorating the house, cooking the special holiday dishes, going to different events, trying to do all the things you think you should be doing and typically most of us feel like we are just not doing enough. And with everyone stressed the pressure in the relationships goes up too. This is when we might be experiencing more disagreements in our families and with our friends. But you see for many of us immigrants this stressful season might be layered with additional feelings of guilt… because we are not spending holidays in our country of origin with our loved ones like we used to. This is the time when the whole family reconnects and is together, we are not there. If it’s you, you might be feeling like you are missing out, like you have lost something important, you might be thinking: I should be there. I’m a bad daughter, son, sister, brother, for not going and not spending this time with my family. Everyone expects that from me, so I’m disappointing them all. Or you also might be also feeling sad and lonely, thinking: The good old times I used to have with my family during the holidays are not coming back. Now this could be a thought running through your mind if some of your family members have died or maybe there have been some disagreements within the family and things are different now. You might be thinking: I shouldn’t be alone. I’m such a loser, everyone has a family and I don’t have anyone to spend my holidays with. For your information if this is running through your head, this is not really true. There are plenty of people who spend holidays alone and believe or not, there are also people who choose to spend it alone and not go to see their family even though they could, and they wouldn’t have to fly across the world to see them. We are all in different situations here, but there are some common things, the guilt and sadness that’s common.

So I’m gonna share some thoughts with you about this.

First of all remember the holiday season is just a blip in your life and in your loved ones lives. There are many other times during the year you can connect with them. For example, when I got married we made a decision that every other Christmas will be spent in Poland. We went twice. Both times traveling was a nightmare and we finally made a decision that it’s just not worth it. We went through so many flight delays. We drove to the airport through snow storms on icy roads in darkness. We finally came to a conclusion that it’s simply not worth the risk. And when you are traveling in the winter time there  is so many variables with the snow storms and you know, the things that can go wrong, so many variables with the snow storms and there is just so many things that can happen, that can go wrong. So when I travel back nowadays I make sure to stay longer and to spend that time that I have in Poland, I spend it specifically with my loved ones. I don’t travel much, I don’t reconnect with other people. Because that time is to be spent reconnecting and creating memories with some of the most important people in my life. 

You know, it wasn’t always that way, but over the years, I’ve been evaluating and adjusting and right now I’m very happy with the way things have been set up. This might change one day, but for now, one of the reasons why I don’t feel super guilty about not being there for Christmas is because of that additional time I spend with my family when I’m there. Because I’m intentional about how that time is spent. So this is my first advice, if you can’t be there for the holidays, can you plan a trip at a different time? And when you plan it consider, who are the people you want to see? How many times do you wanna see them, if it’s not the closest family that you are staying with? Who are other people you want to see? Will you be traveling when you get there or will you stay put? What do you want to feel when you are there? What will you have to be thinking about to feel it? I want to feel love and gratitude, you know when I’m with my family. That’s what I wanna feel. That’s my choice but you get to decide whatever it is that you want to feel. But let’s go back to the holiday season, because so many of us being far away from our original hom, right? We, we feel like we are kind of losing a connection to our culture so: How can you make this time special, so it feels like you are still connected to your culture? Think about what do you miss the most? Loved ones? Traditions? Dishes? Music? Places? Smells? I wanna encourage you to take a piece of paper and write it all out. I’m gonna give you bunch of questions in this podcast. Questions you might have not thought about before, and seriously getting clarity around this topic, might be very, very helpful… because it’s such a charged emotionally time. It’s stressful and then we layer that guilt on top of it and sadness, you know… So that’s why it’s so important that we take the time to examine what are we thinking about it, why are we feeling the way we are feeling. So here is another question:  

If you miss a specific person, who is it and why, why do you miss them? Are they alive? Or are they dead?

If they are alive, how can you connect with them, when will you talk? For how long. What do you want to say to them? Is there anything specific that you want to communicate to them about how special they are maybe…. If you miss someone who has passed, how can you honor them at this time? You know one of my grandmas made really delicious pierogi with cabbage and mushrooms, and she specifically made them every Christmas Eve. That  dish I make as well, every single Christmas. It helps me feel like somehow I’m connected to her and to my grandpa and to all those evenings on Christmas Eve when I was in her house with the rest of my family. That’s not coming back. There is no way that that will come back, because they are gone and many other people are gone too. And yet some of the sweetest memories are there, in those moments when we were together on Christmas Eve. So having that food, having that dish makes me feel like I’m not only honoring them but I’m connecting in a way to that foundation in my life and that’s important to me. That’s one of the conclusions is that, that was an important time in my life and I want Christmas to be somehow connected to it. So that dish specifically brings very special memories.  Is there a dish that you would enjoy making and eating? Food filled with flavor that you enjoyed every holiday?  Maybe you can’t make it but you could purchase it? If so whom do you want to share it with? Do you wanna eat it all on your own? Or do you want to share it with someone and if so, why? Why do you wanna share it? Who is this specifically?  Is this someone who will appreciate maybe learning more about this specific dish and why it’s so special for you? If so, what do you want to share? 

You know another option is, maybe it could be a good time to write a letter to that person that has passed on, the person that you miss. You can definitely do it if they have passed because it’s not  really about them reading the letter, cause obviously, right? You might argue with me, like: What’s even the point, they are not gonna read it… The point is for you to release the mental energy, and feel a sense of continuation and connection. And it’s a beautiful way to get a sense of closure and completion. You could simply thank them for what they have done to make that time so special in the past. 

And how about music? Do you miss some holiday music from your country? Are there any music channels you can listen to on those days you would celebrate with your family? Maybe specific songs? Maybe you could make a playlist that you always listen to on specific holidays? So that there is that continuation and you create kind of your own tradition.

What about spiritual practices that you miss? Can you create your own version of them, even if you are alone? Praying, meditating, fasting, chanting? So many of these can be done alone and some of them it’s better to do alone. Maybe you can watch a video stream from a specific church that you used to go to, and that will give you that sense of connection?

What about gifts? Are you going to send gifts? That’s a good thing to evaluate too… If so what are you sending, to whom and why? Evaluate that stuff… Think this through. Is it necessary and be honest with yourself… Is it necessary? Seriously, you might be like: Ewelina it’s Christmas, of course I’m sending gifts! Well, why is it so “of course”? We live in a culture just obsessed with consumption with owning… is it really that meaningful to get another pair of socks? Are the items better than the memories that you could create if you go back… even at a different time but… I’m all about experiences. That’s what I want in my life. I want experiences with the people I love. I want for my life to be interesting. I don’t want it to be boring, filled with junk I don’t need, you know.. And then cause there is another thing it’s like, especially if you are far away and you send something, even if that person does not need it, they feel obligated to keep it, right? And what’s the point of that? Whom is that helping? The last Christmas in Poland was in 2011. And it was also the last Christmas I had with my grandma on my mom’s side. That year I asked my closest family that we would to skip buying gifts. They all said: Okay, no problem. Let’s try something different. So what happened instead, instead of opening gifts, what we did is.. We had you know dinner together with the traditional dishes and we had Christmas tree and decorations all of that, we had everything… we just didn’t have gifts. Except also on that evening, we had a photo session right after dinner. I had my camera there with me at the time and we took family photos and when I got back to the US I made printed photo books. That Christmas really stands out in my mind.  Because there were no gifts, we paid more attention to each other. Just being together in itself was a gift and we have all these awesome photos…  I actually have photos that I can frame with my grandma… We never did anything like that. That was really meaningful and really, really special. And I’m glad that we did that instead of us exchanging some material stuff. But back to you…  How can you make this holiday away from your country your own? Maybe, maybe you could create your own tradition that gives you a sense of connection to your roots and also relieves some of the sadness and guilt?

If you are an immigrant spending Holidays away from your culture, this could be a beautiful opportunity to narrow down on what really matters to you and why? 

So I strongly encourage you to write this out for yourself, answer the questions I’m giving you today because this holiday time, is supposed to be a time of rejoicing, reflecting, appreciating the light, the love. 

And if you have the ongoing thought in your head  “I should be there, I’m not a good person for not spending holidays with my family” you are doing everything but enjoying this special time of the year. You are not enjoying it because you have this underlying guilt. And also writing out your overall thoughts about holidays might reveal some other reasons why you have not been rejoicing… We have all different kinds of thoughts about it. 

“Everybody should be together” that’s one of the thoughts I hear from my clients a lot. “Everybody should be together.” Then I ask them, why? “Well it’s because it’s a family holiday!” Everybody should be together… or another one: :Only lonely people are alone on Christmas.”

And I question that too, because like I said, there are people who choose to be alone. Why? Because they don’t have that great of memories being with their families at the Christmas time. So they choose to be alone, they want to be alone, because that feels better to them than being in chaos, than being surrounded by whatever else that is… that does not feel like love to them, right? So yeah there are people who choose to be alone, who want to be alone. And to them being alone is actually a sign of emotional growth and maturity and having their own back. Because we know, not every family gathering is all wonderful and filled with love… there is a lot of stress and there might be fighting and there might be a lot of disagreements so those of you who make a conscious decision to stay alone because you feel like that is the better choice for you I applaud you. There is a whole culture that would argue with that choice, right? But you are doing what’s better for you and that’s good. We all have specific situations, we all should not be judging each other for any of those choices. Another one: “I should make all the dishes because otherwise it’s not the same.” We women have that one typically going through our heads or.. “My house should be spotless. I must clean the house because it’s supposed to be clean for Christmas.” Even if you are working a full time job, raising 5 kids… you might have that additional pressure of having the house absolutely spotless because that’s what your mom used to do and that’s what has to be done. And again, I would argue…  Is it the most important thing? When you clean you are removing old stagnant energy, you are refreshing things, you are moving them around, so in that way cleaning up your space to celebrate something that special yes I get it, but in the same time… you can take it easy, you have permission 100%. 

I encourage you to take a look at what it is that you think about it… what it is that you want to create and I want to remind you that  you are an adult. You can do whatever you want. Don’t want to celebrate? Then don’t. You don’t wanna see your family? Don’t. Don’t like specific traditions? You don’t have to participate. 

This is supposed to be the time of rejoicing. If you are tired, and frustrated because you feel like you are forced to do things you don’t want to do you… you are not rejoicing, you are suffering… And you are most likely arguing a lot with what’s happening around you, so you have a lot of frustration. I want to give you a permission to choose on purpose what the holiday season looks like for you and why. I want to encourage you to think ahead, plan and evaluate. And make it your mission to create a holiday season you actually really, really enjoy. So my wish for you is that that’s what happens this year is that you have this holiday the best one yet because it really reflects your wants and needs and you don’t feel like you are being pushed, shoved into some sort of tradition that you don’t enjoy, that has nothing to do with your spiritual life and how you feel, that you feel obligated and that’s why you do it and why you do it… All of it can be done from a different place, it can be done from a place of choice. And if it’s a conscious choice in my opinion that’s always better, so happy holidays my friends! I will talk to you on the 22nd. I have a special interview on that day so tune in then and in a meantime enjoy this Holiday Season. Bye.