Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, right? For most of the year, we anticipate it. Life is full of instability. Ups and downs. Christmas is one constant in all our lives. Unless you are Jewish or a Jehovah’s Witness. But, for many people, it’s their favorite holiday. For others, it’s not the most wonderful time of the year, no matter what year it is. Whether it’s loneliness, loss, age, or many other factors, the holidays are a painful reminder for some. A reminder of what was, what isn’t anymore, and what should or could have been. Let’s explore this a little further.
I know this woman. You might know someone like her. This woman loves Christmas. I see a feeling of pure joy come over her every year starting in early December. It’s the only thing I’ve seen that genuinely makes her happy for that long of a period of time. For her, I think having lived a hard life, Christmas is the time when she could forget. Forget about everything she was going through financially, life wise, or health wise, and focus on the spirit of Christmas. She throws herself into the whole holiday every single year. The food, the music, the decorating, the happiness of giving her kids or somebody else something they wanted. The real tree (every year!!) that makes her whole house smell like pine. The holiday is an escape for her, gives her joy, and gives her purpose. It’s an escape from the harsh realities that she has faced in her life. It’s a reason for her to be happy.
As she has lost people, she has never externally showed a loss of joy around the holidays. She has said “The holidays feel different.” And I know she misses traditions like taking her sister, who had Down Syndrome, shopping for all her nieces & nephews. Or going to see her parents and family on Christmas Eve. She has expressed how much she misses not having her mom and dad around. But it has not completely killed her joy or how much she enjoys the holidays. It’s like the holidays carry her through. That’s not the reality for some people. If you lose somebody in your life who you spent time with every holiday year after year, that’s tough. When Christmas (or another holiday) comes around, it can be a painful reminder of that loss. It can feel lonely, and this dark cloud seems to come into your life as the holiday approaches. If you don’t have others in your life to celebrate with, it can mentally cripple you and send you into a spiral. If you are divorced & don’t get to see your kids every Christmas, it can get very lonely very quickly. We just can’t expect people to forget all the shit life has thrown at them for the sake of a holiday. It’s hard to be happy and celebrate when you feel like there’s nothing to celebrate. It’s hard to find happiness in something when the people that you shared that happiness with aren’t around anymore. Watching others have that happiness and joy around the holidays can be a cruel reminder of what was. For some of us, the holidays are very hard to get through. It’s a sigh of relief when they are over.
Let’s face it, things change. Life changes. We lose more and more people as we get older, which puts this tinge of sadness & grayness over the holidays. We need to remember that those people would not want us to be sad. Everyone says that but it’s so damn true. They wouldn’t want us to be alone, upset, angry, and not able to enjoy the holiday because they aren’t here anymore. That’s probably the last thing that they would want. Whoever they are & wherever they are, they would want us to maintain some of the same happiness & joy that we shared with them even when they aren’t here anymore. That’s hard as hell to do. But we must find our own ways, methods, and things that bring us some holiday joy and ultimately, happiness. You must replace that anger, sadness, and feeling of loss with something. Something that isn’t as dark and gray as those emotions.
We must find our own meaning and purpose in the holidays. Meaning and purpose that brings us some sort of happiness. If it isn’t to find happiness, find something in the holidays that can bring you some peace in your life. Or at least a peace of mind. We must ask ourselves: What do the holidays mean to us? Then, ask: What do we WANT the holidays to mean to us? The women I referenced earlier in this article has found purpose in the holidays. That’s one way for her to cope and deal with the cards she has been dealt in her life.
By the way, that woman has been through pretty much every single traumatic thing that could happen to a person. To a single mom. To a woman. That’s no exaggeration either. But she has not let it kill her spirit, her drive, motivation to live life, or her happiness. She has pushed on & persevered. And when it comes to the holidays, she is full of life, light, some stress, but is truly happy too. I hope that never goes away for her or for any of you who feel the same way she does. For the rest of us, we can learn a lot from women (and others) like her. Her perseverance, pushing on, & finding purpose is something everyone who experiences loss, trauma, and pain should strive for.
After Thoughts: The people we lose over time? That person may not be here anymore physically. That connection, love, and things you shared with that person never die though. Memories never die. They are alive, present, and well. When you hear a song & think of that person, that memory is still there right? The feeling is too. That love and warm feeling that brings a tear to your eye. Yes, that one. Remember that.