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Family, Holidays, Prayer, and Mental Health

As we enter the holiday season we remember that, even as some of us are able to experience the special joys of Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas, it is a difficult time for many people. Perhaps you, the reader, are one of those people. Or perhaps you know that during the holidays, you will be with friends or loved ones who struggle.

Of course, we anticipate that this will be a more difficult holiday season for many of us. Many may not be able to observe our usual family celebrations and holiday traditions. The pandemic has caused terrible losses, stress, and strain. Our nation will be processing an election that has been unusually divisive. Tragically, the election has been a source of family conflict and alienation.

Here are some resources:

  • A previous blog entry provides some suggestions about depression, family & loved ones, and the holidays. It’s here.

  • Here is an excellent guide to helping a loved one when we worry they are suicidal. From the Mayo Clinic.

In my experience, one of the most helpful things we can do for loved ones who are struggling is to be present, non-judgmental and accepting. Often, when our hearts and minds are troubled, we need someone to listen more and speak less. 

By present, I mean we are open to our loved one’s pain and available to be with them. To sit with them and listen to them. We don’t try to explain their suffering away of solve it with unsolicited advice. We don’t pass judgment. And importantly we should avoid what I call “religious guilting.” Any suggestion that the reason the person is suffering is that their faith is not strong enough, or they aren’t praying enough, etc., will almost certainly hurt more than help. We can, instead, remind them they are loved. By us. By their families. By God, who loves them without conditions.

I do not believe we can pray our way out of mental health disorders any more than we can pray our way out of diabetes, or epilepsy, or any other illness. That, of course, is not the same as denying the value of praying when we are suffering psychologically and emotionally, or praying for others who suffer. I am sure you have noticed that, at every Sunday Mass, our Prayers of the Faithful include prayers for the sick, including those with mental illness and addiction.

People can calm their anxiety and cope with depression by meditating. One prayer tradition that’s also a form of meditation is centering prayer. Here is some information on this prayer tradition at this link. Also, we have a group at Prince of Peace who practice this form of prayer who can be a resource for you. Let me know if you would like to be in touch. ([email protected])

Finally, here is a prayer.

Heavenly Father, grant us peace of mind and calm our troubled hearts. Give us the strength and clarity of mind to walk the paths you’ve laid out for us. We trust your love God and know that you will help us out of this darkness. Just as the sun rises each day against the dark of night,  bring us the clarity that comes from your light.

We pray to be filled with your light from head to toe. Help us see the hope that comes from you and through you from our loved ones, and all for us all as we strive to help one another.



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