From the beginning of November until the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve, we are inundated with messages of what the Holidays are “supposed to” look like. Smiling happy faces, families gathered round the table sharing meals and making memories. Unfortunately for many people, their holiday season will look nothing like this. In reality this is the toughest time of the year for many people, and many people are struggling.
There are many who are sharing holiday dinners with an empty seat at the table.
There are many who try to put on a brave face, but there is disappointment lingering beneath surface. Disappointment that they don’t have the kind of relationship with their family they wish for.
There are many who cannot be “home for the holidays” for a variety of reasons, and there is an ache in their chest.
There are many who will spend the holidays be the bedside of sick and ailing loved ones.
There are many who wish they could recapture the “magic” of the holidays they experienced when they were a child, before heartache and pain was a language they knew all too well.
And many others will face the reality that mental health conditions do not subside during these holiday seasons, in fact many may note and increase in symptoms due to various stresses both internal and external.
Many will struggle in silence, because they do not want to be a burden to their families and friends during a “special” time. Some may want to participate in the family functions but will find it difficult to do so. Some may struggle to get out of bed, others may struggle to “be present” when with family. For those with anxiety, important functions may place too great a burden on them, and they prefer much quieter, intimate affairs.
If you are in a good and happy place this holiday season, I am glad. But please be gentle with the others around you, and understand that they might be feeling something very different during this time. Check in on your loved ones, be present for them. Do not put expectations or pressure for them to act or feel a certain way. Meet them where they are. Give them space, but let them know they are not alone.
And if the holidays ARE hard for you, stay strong. Take care of yourself. Do the things that feed your spirit. Read a book. Cuddle up with a book. Separate yourself from the people that overwhelm you. Understand that it is OK to say “NO” to people and events that feel draining. Utilize your positive support network. Be honest when others reach out. You do not HAVE to feel a certain way.
and if the Holidays are really rough, and you are feeling vunerable and alone, know that there is a network of people out there who understand and want to help you get through this.
- Crisis Text Line: You can text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected with a trained counselor for free (even consider adding them as a contact in your phone).
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK 
- Google local crisis numbers for your area, which often times have mobile response teams that will come help you out .
- 911. This one might seem obvious to some, and too intimidating of an option to others. If you do feel intimidated by it, please know that it’s what 911 is there for—it exists to help individuals who are in danger. It exists to protect people, and you are worth protection.
This article written in Huff Post in 2015 is something I still return to yearly, because the holidays have always been a difficult time for me.
To those who are hurting, I send you light and love, and I pray that hope will rise in your soul. That you continue to find the grace and strength that has brought you this far. These days may be difficult, but they will not last forever. We will continue to move forward, and we will find the beauty in life in our own ways, on our own time.