I hate the holidays.
I woke up today to everything Christmas. Music, lights, decorations, and the cheer being pushed down my throat. I’m still savoring the trick-or-treat candy with my morning coffee, but a scowl is on my face because ho ho ho and fa la la la are hammering in my ear. Bah humbug, I am Scrooge.
I wasn’t always this way. Growing up, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays were my favorite. The magic. The twinkling lights. The gathering of family. The yearly traditions. The sweet sounds of carols. Oh, how I loved helping my mom and sisters decorate our house. I continued the full-on celebrating throughout my college and married years.
Then, in the middle of December 2015, my Christmas joy shattered. I pushed through those weeks of holiday hurrah in silence of the deep pain and tragedy that was upon me. My marriage was over. My husband leaving me. I faked my way through Christmas morning presents, family board games, and hours of small talk. All the delicious foods and drinks were sawdust in my mouth. The warmth of the glowing fire couldn’t reach the ice that was running through my veins.
Holidays are torturous for me. I am either away from my children or reminded of how holidays use to look. I see my friends celebrate with their families and I have pings of jealousy. My Thanksgiving and Christmas are dictated by a court approved parenting plan.
I still decorate. A beautiful tree draped in white lights and colorful ornaments. Presents are wrapped in cheerful paper under the tree. Christmas music plays on and off. Thanksgiving blessings shared. Cookies are baked. Oohing and aahing over the light displays. I show excitement. I play the part. All for my boys.
All the while, I am dying inside. I count the days until it is all over. The anniversary of the beginning brings tears and anger. Resentment is hot and vile in my throat. Grief deep. Panic rising. Because I have to pretend that the holidays are a joyous and wondrous occasion. Because who doesn’t love Christmas?
Me. And lots of other people.
But we are forced to put on our happy faces to make everyone feel better. Life doesn’t stop being hard just because it is the holidays. Depression doesn’t just go away because I take part in Grateful November. Divorce doesn’t just get easier when I am reminded of what I am missing as I sit in a movie theater on Christmas Day by myself. Often times, the holidays make the already difficult parts of life even more so. Financial strains feel more pressure with the extra gifts, food, and festivities. Anxiety rises due to the increase of social gatherings and events. Loneliness intensifies with longer periods away from children or family and friends. Grief surges for loved ones and previous moments gone forever.
I am not asking for others to not get excited or love the holidays. I don’t even want you to tone down your enthusiasm. I get it. I used to be the exact same way. I can’t ask that the holidays just stop. Although it would be so much easier. Can we pretend that they aren’t happening this year? No. Oh. OK.
Friends, if you see me or someone you love who may struggle more during these next couple months, I want you to do this.
Give a hug.
Send a text.
Write a little just “thinking of you” note.
Send an invite that doesn’t have anything to do with the holidays.
Ask me to join your family.
Don’t be hurt if the invitation is declined.
Check in, and often.
Trying to handle all of the pressures the holidays demand plus trying to maintain my health and sanity is exhausting. I barely hold myself together without breaking. And it seems the holidays begin earlier and earlier. So I am walking on thin ice longer and longer. January comes and BAM! I am hit with the consequences of holding the facade for too long.
So please forgive my eye rolls, my lack of enthusiasm, the cringe on my face when I hear Christmas music on the radio, when I opt-out of the gift exchange, the cancelled plans, and the heavy sighs. But please don’t get so caught up in the red, green, and jolliness that you cannot see the suffering in the eyes.
It is nothing you have done.
It is this time of year. And all the pain, heartache, and loneliness it brings.