It’s here.

That painful time of year has arrived.

Despite the festive red cups at the coffee shops, the pretty twinkling lights everywhere, and the bright and cheerful holiday music, this time of year is excruciatingly painful for so many.

They walk amongst you.

They plaster on their fake smiles during work Zoom calls.

They sit beside you making small talk at your kid’s basketball games.

They chat about surface-level topics over dinner at birthday parties.

They stand quietly in line while waiting for their latte, willing back their tears.

They pluck ornaments from the giving tree at the gym, desperate to find a way to find a glimmer of happiness right now.

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They are heartbroken.

They are all too aware of the giant hole in their lives during the holiday season.

The thought of not seeing their loved one at the holiday table makes them want to faint or scream or punch the wall or hide under the covers for days.

They are all around you.

And they are often silent.

So silent.

But if you listen, their silence is deafening.

Society doesn’t grant them much permission to share their grief, to talk about their loved one, or to express their complicated feelings.

After all, the holidays should be a joyful time and there’s always something to be thankful for.

At least, that’s the message we send to them.

“Be happy.”

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“Get over it.”

“They wouldn’t want you to be sad during the holidays.”

But when you are grieving, nothing is more lonely or less joyful than the holiday season—two long months of pure emotional pain and social pressures.

So they push their pain down and carry on, pretending to be whole.

But they aren’t.

They are hurting.

They are broken.

Next time you are in your Zoom meeting, or at your kid’s basketball game, or at a gathering with friends, or in line at the coffee shop, take a moment and forget about festive cups, twinkly lights, and holiday music and listen.

Listen to their silence.

Look behind their fake smiles.

Hear their hidden pain.

Feel the silent weight they carry.

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Maybe you could even give them space to grieve, ask about their loved one, or just let them know you see them.

They need it.

Especially now.

It’s here.

Originally published on the author’s Facebook page.

Jenni Brennan

Jenni Brennan, LICSW is an author, podcaster, college professor, therapist, and mother. Her work centers around the topics of grief, health and wellness, relationships, and parenting.