The winter holiday seasons is supposed to be the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” but for many it isn’t. For Christians, the season is about Christ’s birth, but no matter your faith, December is a holiday-filled month. Despite it being filled with events that revolve around family and traditions, for many reasons this time of year is so hard. Instead of inspiring feelings of joy there is often sadness and depression.
Money and the pressure to give the right gifts can really suppress a person’s warm and fuzzies about the holidays. As we start preparing earlier and earlier and gifts get more expensive, some people are just ready for January. But going into debt is not the way to celebrate. Make a reasonable budget and stick to it. People will understand. And honestly, if they don’t, they are probably not people you want in your life.
Another reason that can dull the holiday shine is that not everyone has healthy family relationships. They sit through dinners and parties biting their tongues and trying not to cry. There is a song I heard that describes a picture a lot of people I know can relate to this time of year. At one point the lyrics address a family member:
I guess that I'm a letdown
But it's cool, I checked out
Oh, you wanna be friends now?
Okay, let's put my fake face on and pretend now
Sit around and talk about the good times
That didn't even happen
I mean, why are you laughing?
Must have missed that joke
Let me see if I can find a reaction
No, but at least you're happy
The dread of putting on a happy face and pretending drains the true joy out of holidays for so many people. Sadly, one of the main reasons that a lot of people do not look forward to the holidays is loss and grief. That is where I find myself this year. My grandma passed in October, and she was a huge part of my life. Moving on without her has been harder than I thought it would be. Everywhere I turn, there are reminders that she is not with me this year. Traditions and events that she would be part of are missing that piece.
Someone sent me a poem that meant a lot and summed up my feelings:
"Grief and Christmas go together like fire and ice.
When everyone around you wants to be happy and joyful,
You just want to be alone with the pain, curl up and hide.
It’s ok, it’s your grief, do it your way.”
-- Hamp Thomas
Those who are grieving tend to plaster on a façade of, “I’m fine,” and only show their faces when necessary. There is hope, though for getting through the season well. I found the following "Dos and Don'ts for the Holidays" at Grief.com:
Do be gentle with yourself and protect yourself.
Don’t do more than you want, and don’t do anything that does not serve your soul and your loss.
Do allow time for the feelings.
Don’t keep feelings bottled up. If you have 500 tears to cry don’t stop at 250.
Do allow others to help. We all need help at certain times in our lives.
Don’t ask if you can help or should help a friend in grief. Just help. Find ways; invite them to group events or just out for coffee.
Do, in grief, pay extra attention to the children. Children are too often the forgotten grievers
So, whether you are singing carols and decking the halls, or you feel like you are on the Island of Misfit Toys, remember the reason for the celebrating. Make budgets and be realistic about your spending. Focus on those you love and those who love you. Acknowledge your feelings and the feelings of those around you. You may need to skip a party or two to protect yourself from toxic people or give yourself some extra time to cry out your grief. Develop realistic expectations about how you will handle situations you find yourself in during the holidays.
And the best advice I can give is to take it one day at a time. With time and self-care, you can have less of a blue Christmas and start rockin' around your Christmas tree.