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When Your Holidays Aren’t So Happy

December 7, 2010

A few years ago one of my dear friends got some bad news.  It was a few weeks before Christmas and she was happily humming along to the holiday tunes she loved when the bad news hit her smack in the face.  I’m not going to get into details, but the news was devastating and life changing.  And ever since that early December evening, the holiday season has meant something different to her.  No longer is it unabashedly cheerful and grateful, rather it is a time for reflection, sadness, and regret.

During this time of year we are bombarded with the happiness of the holidays.  We can also find tips on managing holiday stress, coping with the dreaded office Christmas party, and dealing with irritating in-laws and unwanted gifts.  But it is more rare that we read about the sadness that the holiday season brings for many.  Those without families, those who have lost marriages, children, parents, or homes.  The reasons for holiday gloom are many – and more common than you might think.

So what can be done when your holidays aren’t happy and don’t look anything like those in the movies?

Give yourself a break. Even though Target, Hallmark, and Macy’s would have us believe that December is the most magical, meaningful time of the year, it doesn’t have to be so.  There’s no law saying you have to put up lights, decorate a tree, or even send out cards.  So make your own meaning and tradition.  June a better time for you? Go with it – and create traditions and memories around a time that works better for you.

Don’t fake it. Forcing yourself to go to every party, bake 12 dozen cookies, and smile until January 2nd will just make the season worse.  Feel like staying home and having a quiet night in? Do it.

The reason for the season. Whatever your religious preference, I think most can agree that the reason for the season is NOT excessive spending and swelling of consumer debt.  So whatever your beliefs, it may be helpful to focus on the spiritual side of December.

Seek help. If you’ve tried some of the ideas above as well as some of your own, and still can’t shake your sadness this season, consider seeking the help of a psychologist.  Often just a few sessions with an unbiased, caring, helpful professional can be enough to make the holidays manageable – and maybe someday enjoyable.

Photo by: LST1984

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