This time of year is overflowing with bright lights, holiday parties, and a lot of hustle and bustle. Not everyone is joyous or excited about the season, however. Whether it is due to the cold and darkness of winter, a recent job loss or unemployment, the end of a relationship, or the death of a loved one, there are many reasons people struggle at this time of year.
One of the most difficult things about grief and sadness is watching the world move on while yours has been forever altered. How can you be expected to be excited about a holiday when it is the first one without your partner, sibling, child, or friend? It is hard to even imagine celebrating when you mostly feel sadness and grief. Even if it has been several years since the passing of a loved one, the holidays may still be difficult, as it is another celebration without someone special.
The experience of grief and depression during the holidays is real and experienced by more people than you may realize. Some of those engaged in the festivities may be struggling just as much as those sitting them out. So what can you do aside from wishing January 2 would hurry up and arrive? There are real ways to manage the sadness, grief, and depression of this time.
First, start by acknowledging your feelings. There is great power in speaking what is rather than keeping it bottled up inside. Tell a friend, a coworker, or anyone you trust that you are having a hard time and this season is especially difficult for you. Not only will you likely feel better, but in sharing you also open up a source of support. When people know that this time of year is sad for you, they may touch base more frequently, ask you what you need, and be supportive throughout the season.
Second, though it may be tempting, stay away from alcohol or limit yourself to one drink. Whether it’s a social lubricant or a way to take the edge off, drinking too much alcohol can send you deeper into sadness and grief. And while intoxicated, you will not have the ability to use any healthy coping skills to get you through the difficult moments.
Next, consider changing the tradition and celebrating differently. Traditions are important and give us a touchstone each year. But with death and the inevitable changing nature of life, traditions may also need to adjust and change over time. Perhaps you reserve a seat at the table for the person(s) who died, incorporate the deceased’s favorite dish into the meal, or perhaps you consider going somewhere else for the holiday.
If you are unemployed, underemployed, or are facing a sudden layoff, while others are busily and excitedly shopping for presents and decorations you may be concerned with paying the grocery and heating bills. If you traditionally spend a lot of money at this time of year, you will need to change that tradition. Consider hosting a potluck meal rather than paying for the entirety of it. Or create presents based on time rather than things. For example, you might offer your time babysitting for a friend or family member.
Finally, there is always the option not to celebrate at all. This does not mean being the office or neighborhood Grinch. You’re simply deciding that you do not want to celebrate the holidays this year. You can reach out to others who may share this feeling and spend time together. Host a movie night or television-show binge rather than a holiday celebration. Find something that will bring you joy and allow you to enjoy your day.
Though you may feel sadness and darkness right now, know that these emotions and circumstances will shift and change. Joy, warmth, and light will return to you. Until it does, connect with others and rely on the support they offer.
May you have a light-filled season and New Year!
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