When Christmas Isn’t Merry

by CaReese

The Christmas season has officially begun. This is a happy time for most. It used to be a happy time for me. I used to love shopping for gifts, wrapping them, and watching people open them. I used to love the time spent with family and the amazing food. Christmas used to be a lot of fun.

Since my mom passed away, Christmas has lost much of its appeal. My life changed, and not for the better. I miss her every day and all the memories associated with Christmas make it harder. My grandmother passed away last year and this made Christmas even more difficult.

All of this is complicated by the fact that I am in a very bad place in life right now, and every Christmas marks the passage of another year in this place. It’s a reminder of all that has not changed in the last year.

I know that Christmas is supposed to be happy. It’s supposed to be a time of joy and hope. Unfortunately, Christmas now represents loss. It is a shadow of what Christmas used to be. It brings up memories of better days gone by and serves a painful reminder of how difficult things are now.

I understand holiday depression. I experience it though I know that there are many that experience it to a greater degree. This time of year has become known as “Suicide Season” in the medical field. It can be a time of great joy and celebration or a time of sadness and stress. So how does a Christian (that should be celebrating) endure a difficult holiday season?

Find Beauty. Though this time of year can be extremely difficult, there is beauty to be found. Many neighborhoods are beautifully decorated. Go out for a ride or a walk and take in the beauty. If you live in a colder climate, there is often snow. Some people find a snowy scene beautiful. The night sky is beautiful. Appreciate the beauty around you.

Give. I am not necessarily referring to presents (though gift-giving is great). I am talking about giving to those in need. Giving money at a local church or other charitable organizations can make a huge difference in the life of someone struggling with hunger, medical issues, or other problems. There are many organizations that help people around the world, for example, WorldVision and Samaritan’s Purse. Knowing that you are helping someone can be rewarding.

Escape. We all have to take a break eventually. Sometimes it helps to get absorbed in a really good book or a fun project. Do you enjoy scrapbooking, knitting, or a reading? Perhaps you have a favorite movie. It can be good to take a break from your life and get lost in something you enjoy.

Try to stick as closely as possible to your routine. The holidays are unlike any other time. We are expected to shop, decorate, and attend several parties. This is enough to throw a person off their schedule. During the holidays it is important to try to continue doing the things that structure your life: exercise, sleep, church attendance, family time, and healthy eating. These things can serve as anchors so that you do not drift too far off course.

Lean. Ask God to help you get through this season. Pray and study. Spend some time with your journal. Take one day at a time.

Get help. This is crucial. Reach out to a doctor or counselor if you need help getting though this season.

Nurture. When I was in graduate school I saw a counselor every week. During one particularly difficult time she urged me to do what is life-giving. For me, that means journaling, reading, and doing creative work. It may mean something different for you. The main thing is to do what is life-giving for you. Enjoy simple pleasures as often as you can.

The Christmas season can be difficult, but like every other season, it will pass. Hopefully, we can all find little pockets of joy as we journey through it.