When The Holidays Hurt

The holidays are upon us. Here in the US, we have Thanksgiving this coming Thursday. Then, on to December and many different holidays- from Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa to the New Year. It is a time of celebrating, family and friends sharing in moments together and memories made. But, what about when the holidays hurt?

Flipping through my Facebook page and there it sits, “On this day” a memory photo. The sadness is overwhelming and the ache in my chest painful. A photo of someone no longer part of my life. A memory, and then another, until my mind is flooded with the past. Things my heart will not allow me to forget. Years of holiday photos, cherished memories with my kids and husband, but among them are also faces of those whom we left in another life or loved ones who’ve departed.

This is what happens around this time of year for me. But, not just me, for many who have suffered losses. Perhaps through someone’s passing away, or maybe a falling out that ended years of friendship, a relationship or family ties. I have spoken in detail over the “loss” our family had 3 years ago in “My Journey In Faith.” I’ve also mentioned the passing of one of my dearest friends, my Gram, here. The five-year anniversary of her death just this past week.

Seasons may pass and time will go by, but that won’t change a thing. I want to smile and have a laugh, to enjoy the carolers sing. I wrap a gift, put up the tree and enjoy some holiday cheer. But then I find, I need a space, to cry my unshed tears.©~MM

For those who find themselves in this place, it can be such a complicate road to navigate. Often faced with expectations from others for you to be elated with the joys of the season. It is a time for parties and presents, food and merriment! But grief and depression is a real part of the holidays too. One that is often overlooked by those who don’t want to, or don’t know how to, deal with [it], or perhaps aren’t even aware. Often a difficult subject to broach and one that some may avoid altogether. But, I want to meet it head-on because, it is such an important topic to me!

So, how do we process these emotions, this grief, during the holiday season? Or how can you respect and help those that are hurting? Pulling from some of my own experiences, I would like to share some perspective.


1. Everyone grieves and processes emotions differently.

How one person experiences a loss may not be equal to the person next to you. We are all human, but our brains do not all work the same. One person may grieve openly and with much emotion, while another does not seem to mourn at all. And, what you may believe to be an appropriate place and time to grieve, may not be shared as acceptable “behavior,” by those closest to you. The best thing we can do for ourselves or for one another is to respect the process, whatever that may look like. There is no right or wrong when it comes to mourning.

2. Length of time for grief differs for everyone.

There is not a time limit to the heartache of loss. Do not let anyone attempt to dictate the time it takes to overcome [it]. I believe as long as you are working through grief in a healthy manner, no one should tell you what overcoming loss should look like.

It has been five years since I lost my Gram, still the pain is present. Although I don’t always talk about her, there are times where I still grieve. This is the time of year that she was a very big part of. Most of my adult, married life, she and my grandpa would come over for Thanksgiving to our home. She taught me how to make my first apple pie and always held tips during the process of our Thanksgiving meal. Christmas time was no different. Many of the treats I bake are her recipes. When she got older and no longer felt like baking, I would bring her and Grandpa a tray of treats to share. Hours were spent at their table with coffee and sweets, such special memories for me. Christmas day we always went over to their house in the afternoon. And, although my kids, hubby and I can now reminisce at the memories with fondness, there will always be emotions tied to them.

3. Embrace the pain with the memories.

Now, it is on to thee embracing what I can not change and working to cherish the positive memories. Choosing to live in the present and control what I am able to. This has been a hard one for me. My other “loss” was a large group of individuals whom had been like family, for 14 years. Both of my children’s entire lives were knit together with their’s, up until three years ago. Photos are still difficult, I look back in albums, dozens of faces are mingled in with my family’s memories. Then, there are the holiday traditions that we were all part of together every year. I hope one day that I will be able to do some of those things again, without such sadness accompanying them.


While grief is unpredictable and often hard to understand, as we head into the holidays, I hope you find solace in knowing that you are not alone. And, if you know someone who is hurting, maybe this will help you find perspective as they navigate the holidays.

Perhaps you have something to add, ask, share or recommend. Please feel free to leave a comment.



Filed under Depression, Family

20 responses to “When The Holidays Hurt

  1. Truer words have not been spoken, or typed 🙂

    I’ve got plenty of reasons to hate this time of year, many of them for years I hid behind a barrier of “I hate the commercialism”, “I hate the way it’s lost it’s meaning”, and so many other reasons because sometimes it’s easier just to mask the reasons.

    Not everyone around you needs to know the real reasons and that’s fine but without knowing the reasons they tend to judge you the wrong way. It’s just one of the things you live with when you choose the path you do, I don’t blame others for not understanding, however it’s when they don’t want to understand because it’s easier not too that annoys me.

    • This makes me so sad…people are so judgmental. I have been there. Thanks for reading and your support.

      P.S. Not dribble! And my page doesn’t hate you, it has multiple personalities and was acting like a 5 year old having a tantrum. 😉

      • Welcome, support is what it’s all about. Thankfully more are becoming aware of that these days but even as recently as 10 years ago it was still very taboo.

        I should get along with your 5 year old tantrum page very well, it describes me very well 🙂

      • Quite true. It is why I grew up in a home where my father’s depression was hidden. Not until I was in the throws of my own issues, at 21, did my parents finally tell me that depression runs in our family. It was a WTH moment! I am so open about my struggles because I don’t want anyone to feel the way I did- alone and confused.

        And I knew that was why we got on so well. But 5 year olds can be so unpredictable 😉

      • I don’t think I grew up in a house of depression, if I did it’s still a secret. My dad retired on stress leave from his shift work job but it wasn’t depression. I retired from my shift work job due to injury which lead to stress and depression and my brother managed to get out of the same job with his own issues but not really stress related.

        I’m definitely unpredictable 🙂

  2. Seems my comment didn’t go through, no idea what happens but I’ve getting different error messages depending on the browser I use.

  3. geminilvr

    #2 so important to remember

  4. Agree with your sentiments here, however, the abuse and vicious verbal attacks aimed at me for no memorable reason caused me to chose between my wife and (then youngish) family or my sibling. There was only one choice in my mind…which I believe may have been a repeat of a similar situation which occurred some forty years earlier. We all grieve differently but abusing people should not be part of that process.

  5. My wife and have been married 37 years. This will be our first Thanksgiving in which it will be just the two of us. We have two grown children and three grandchildren. My wife and I have been judged and demonized by certain family members in which I will not go into detail. All that said we have each other and we will be thankful for our legacy. Wishing you all to be thankful this holiday, even when it seems difficult. Correction. There will be one more at our table this Thanksgiving. Jesus 🙂

    • Well, put. And I have learned that my husband and children are my mission field right now. So, we all grow together and these are the teachable moments. Thanks so much for your words. It is good to know that others are out there. And yes, never alone- the Lord is always with us too 🙂

  6. Thanks for sharing this Michelle. The holidays surely evokes joys to most people and sadness to some. Yes, they are not alone.

  7. Loved this post. There are so many people who find this time of year tough. Yet people will often not say how sad they are feeling…

  8. This post is so true. It’s so sad that so many feel pain during what a lot of us grow up to know as a happy time of year. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Pingback: Running On Empty | Southern By Design

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