Sunday, December 4, 2016
When Christmas Hurts
For many of us, Christmastime is a time of great joy. A time of sparkling lights, sweet treats, joining together with family and friends, caroling and gifts. A time for forgetting our worries and coming together to celebrate. I have many friends that wait with baited breath all year for Thanksgiving to be over and the Christmas season to officially begin so that they can sink into the joy of the season.
However, for many others, this time of year simply amplifies the holes that are in their hearts and lives.
When I was a hospice nurse, I realized for the first time in my life just how hard this time of year is for those who are mourning. Christmas traditions and celebrations, especially for those celebrating the first holiday season without a loved one, can feel bittersweet or empty without those that they once celebrated with.
My grandmother passed away on Thanksgiving a few years ago and now that holiday has a melancholy edge to it which I imagine will remain forever. Those who have lost spouses or children this time of year will not only have a melancholy edge to those holidays, but instead a gaping hole that may never feel filled.
As a public health nurse who works with those living in poverty, I now know that those struggling financially live in worry for this entire season. They worry not only about how to put presents under the tree, but also how to heat their homes and put food on their tables. They are often working multiple jobs and have no time to sink into the joy of the season. The strain of this time of year on these families often causes increased fighting, domestic violence and tension in the households.
Those of us that struggle with depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses often feel that the cheer around us seems false when the darkness inside us is blooming. There have been years where I hunkered down inside away from the cheer outside and avoided Christmas parties like the plague. I just simply couldn't rustle up enough Christmas cheer to join in the festivities.
I also struggle with the commercialization of Christmas. It all just seems so fake and greedy at times. I find myself channeling Cindy Lou Who and wondering where Christmas is underneath all of the fakery.
There are many reasons to celebrate Christmas and also many reasons that this season exaggerates the pain that we feel all year round.
I must admit that Christmas is, indeed, my favorite time of year. However, there are many years that I struggle and struggle deeply. For the cheer around us does little to eradicate the darkness within. Some days I just want to turn off the Christmas tunes and the Christmas tree and hunker down into the sadness a bit. And, I honor you if you need to do so, as well.
False cheer is not cheerful at all and it, in fact, always seems to intensify my sadness to pretend. If you are struggling this season, be kind to yourself and know that you are not alone.
If the darkness seems like too much, please reach out. You can always speak to someone online or by phone here. The world needs you, Love. This too shall pass.