On Wednesday afternoon, the MU Counseling Center and LGBTQ Resource Center co-sponsored a discussion about the difficulties students face and experience during the holiday season.
Called “I Hate the Holidays: Why Sometimes This Isn’t the Best Time of the Year,” the event, which took place in the LGBTQ Resource Center, was held to highlight the reasons why the holidays can be unpleasant for many students and provide students who experience holiday-related difficulties with possible coping strategies.
Those who attended the event discussed negative holiday experiences they have had in the past as well as their anxieties about this year’s upcoming holiday season and winter break.
“The purpose of this event was to do something to validate the fact that many people have negative feelings about the holidays and negative experiences with them,” said Renee Powers-Scott, a counselor in the MU Counseling Center. “The holidays can be challenging and are not always joyful. This event provides an opportunity to talk about those issues without being called a scrooge.”
The event was the idea of LGBTQ Resource Center Coordinator Struby Struble. Struble was seeking to provide students with a place to express their negative feelings toward the holidays.
“I noticed that there was not a space on campus for students to express negativity around the holidays, and I wanted to create an event for students to express those feelings and where it would be OK to do so,” Struble said. “It is important to draw attention to this problem because our society can make you feel crazy and alone for not liking the holidays.”
Powers-Scott began the event by instructing attendees to anonymously write down on pieces of paper their reasons for disliking the holidays. The papers were placed in a bowl, which was then passed around the group. Attendees drew a piece of paper and read the reason listed aloud. This exercise led to a group discussion of each issue and attendees’ related experiences.
“I thought this would be a good way to structure the discussion because I was afraid that people might be afraid or embarrassed to publicly say why they hate the holidays and I wanted to give them some anonymity so they would feel more comfortable in doing so,” Powers-Scott said.
About 10 students attended the event. They discussed topics including stressful family situations, food- and alcohol-related difficulties, commercialization of the holiday season and loneliness students feel when they cannot be with their families during the holidays.
“I think this event went well,” Powers-Scott said. “I was pleased with the level of interaction and sharing and it seemed like those in attendance really felt comfortable discussing why they don’t like the holidays.”
Struble agreed with Powers-Scott’s assessment of the event. She said the effect the event has on students is more important than the number of students who attend.
“I think it was a really good success,” Struble said. “We don’t expect high numbers to attend, but what we do hope for is to have a high impact on the people that do come and I think we got that today.”
Although the event was held by the LGBTQ Resource Center, it was open to all students.
“All our events are open to anyone and we’ve had two other similar ones this year that were attended by multiple allies,” Struble said. “This one seemed to have less (non-LGBTQ students) but I think that had more to do with the fact that this topic really resonates with the LGBTQ community.”