‘Tis the season . . .
For many people – especially children – the Christmas holidays are a time of joy and even magic! Joyful reunions with families and friends, boisterous laughter, tables groaning with goodies, gifts shared abound for many – all with a sense of gratitude. For those most mindful of the reason we celebrate the birth of Jesus, there is a renewed hope for peace on earth and humble thankfulness for God taking human form to show us the way to happy and meaningful lives. It is a time of prayers and promises to love more, give more, serve more, and to work consciously for the well-being of our fellow man.
However, for some people – many more than you may think – the holiday season is anything but joyous, but rather something to ‘get through’ and endure. The days are not merry and bright, and a sense of isolation, sadness, and depression underlie valiant attempts to be festive.
Remember: the holidays are here—and for some – they can hurt!
Loss of loved ones, feelings of failure over families or careers, health problems, financial troubles can fester into gloom under the light of Christmas trees and merry-making. Compelled to feel happy and upbeat, these folks feel even more guilt because they are not.
So, if you are hurting this holiday season …
Let it hurt. Allow pain to come fully without alteration. Life is difficult and you are not OK, and you shouldn’t waste precious time and energy to pretend that it isn’t so. Let grief and sadness be there; be authentic to yourself. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. Tears help to wash away the deep pain of loss.
Don’t hide your pain. Give people close to you the most authentic version of yourself as you are able to give. Allow people who love you to help you through this season. Let them see you, not some sanitized, edited version you think they expect. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events that support your feelings. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others is also a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
Don’t be fooled by the calendar. The holidays are just a series of days, even though the trappings may make you feel otherwise. Release yourself from the expectation to have some magical Christmas conversion like George Bailey, in It’s A Wonderful Life. If this season finds you less than alright, stay true to yourself and your authentic feelings, and realize “this too shall pass”.
Don’t sabotage yourself. Don’t try to convince yourself that you ‘must’ be happy during the holidays. Since you’re the only one who truly knows the depth and scope of your sadness, don’t beat yourself up; don’t be complicit in your own guilt trip. Go easy on yourself. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.
Give yourself permission to do what you need. Make some time for yourself. There are times and places during the holidays where the hurt is too much to handle; certain gatherings, parties, people, activities. Don’t feel as though you need to do all, or any of it! Balance your need to protect your emotions ; there is nothing wrong with avoiding negative situations. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed.
Embrace this holiday season as-is. There is still goodness to be welcomed and blessing to be claimed this holiday season, even in the pain. There will be holidays in the future when you will feel stronger and lighter; allow yourself to accept whatever gifts this holiday has for you.
Remember, Jesus was born for you. Jesus’ message of love, forgiveness and salvation is yours, even if you cannot fully feel it this holiday! His message reminds us every day that loss, grief, estrangement and guilt are all part of the human experience. When you can, reach out to others, forgive, let go, and know that the birth of the child we celebrate is also the birth of understanding, acceptance, and eternal life – and in your deepest sorrow, perhaps this can be, for you, a light of joy and peace.
And above all, friend, know that it’s OK to be blue this holiday season.
It really is.
Written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 12 December 2017