When the Holidays Aren't Happy

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

The holiday season brings so many expectations. Expectations of joy, happiness, and fun. Every social media post seems to be a record of someone’s perfect and wonder filled holiday.

Yet, for many the holiday season is a time of pain, sadness, and heartache.

For some, this is the first holiday after a divorce or a significant death in the family. It may be the fifth, tenth, or twentieth, and yet the holiday season does nothing more than open the wound.

Often we head to social media for escape. During the holidays when we are “supposed” to be happy, all we feel is the greater weight of expectations. We feel an even deeper sense of our grief, sadness, and pain. There seems to be no escape.

Many of us will fake it. We put on our brave face to “grin and bear it.” The pain simply swells. Some of us will not fake it, we give in and fall into a hopeless despair. The pain overwhelms us and we feel as though there is nothing we can do.

We wonder if we can make it another day. Not only is there great pain in our hearts we feel as though we are failures because we are not meeting the expectations of the season.

As the holidays ramp up know this: You are not alone. You are not failing. You are loved and cherished.

I'm learning more about grief these days than I would like. Something that I have found to be true and has given me hope is that grief is something that we don't ever get over. It becomes part of us and our story. Who we are grows around the grief. Our lives, ultimately, are enlarged by the pain. We become people who are greater attuned to the needs of others, we become more empathetic, more gentle, more caring. In short, we find ourselves as ones acquainted with grief drawing ever closer to Christ, even though it doesn't feel like it.

As a pastor I often talk about grace. During these seasons of the year, grace becomes ever more real and practical. You need to know that grace allows you to feel sad even when everyone is apparently happy. Grace frees you to know that in the midst of the holiday season you can attend to your emotional needs even if doing so frustrates some folks.

You have the freedom to say, “No.” Even though it's “Christmas.”

You have the freedom to lay off social media if the incessant happy posts do nothing more than feed your grief and the weight of expectations.

If you need someone to listen, someone who will let you grieve, reach out to me or someone you trust.

You are not alone.