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When Holidays Hurt

I remember the Christmas after a big loss in our family. I wanted nothing to do with it. I had a roommate who insisted on putting up a Christmas tree, and I had all kind of thoughts about lighting it on fire or spray painting all her ornaments black. The gaping hole in my heart and in our family felt like it would never make sense. “Celebrating” anything made no sense.

In many ways it is better now. I am able to sing Christmas carols without crying. I can be merry and bright and enjoy Christmas morning again, but I am also still sad. That hole doesn’t feel quite as gaping anymore, but it’s still there, and my loved ones still aren’t.

Loss is a part of life, and grief is the cost of love and blah blah blah. I can tell you all the nice pleasantries or that everything happens for a reason, but the truth is – if you are suffering from a recent death or divorce or broken relationship, holidays can hurt like hell.

I’ve been through it, and survived. So here is my is my expert advice for surviving holidays when you are grieving:

1. Realize it’s okay to be sad. Holidays are all about tradition and this year won’t feel traditional. Pain demands to be felt. Feel it. If you ignore it it’s just going to feel worse in a million other ways.

2. Give. Make life not about you enjoying Christmas, because that may be impossible. Instead make it about others. Get toys for poor kids. Buy someone’s meal in a drive through. Smile at strangers. Give a waitress a huge tip.

3. Be kind to yourself. It won’t go away but it will get easier with time. Give yourself time.

4. Find someone who gets it, and tell them how the holidays suck and hug each other. I have hugs to give if you need one.

5. If you are stuck in the pain, and it’s not getting better over time, it may be time to reach out for professional help. I did, and it made a huge difference.

Call 918-205-4148 or email if you’d like to talk to a therapist at Resolve.

Wishing you peace and comfort this Christmas!