I’ve always felt there is something so magical about this time of the year with the sparkling lights, warm fires and hot cocoa (or wine). I love Christmas. I love the decorations, the shopping, the carols, and the celebrating of Jesus’ birth.

Each year you can often find me prancing around the house, with a grin on my face, singing “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”.

Here is the thing, though: for many, many people, it’s not.

For different reasons, the holidays can be an incredibly painful time.

Not everyone has good holiday memories. For people who grew up in dysfunctional and chaotic homes, there may not be those fond memories of waking up to an exciting Christmas morning. There may not be memories of cuddling up on the couch watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Memories of the holidays may look a lot different and include violence, neglect, screaming, and anger. And so each year when the rest of the world appears holly-jolly, it can be a harsh reminder of all they’ve endured and why they don’t feel the joy of this season like others do.

For some, the holidays bring out bouts of deep grief as they miss the ones they love the most. They try to recreate the dish grandma always made, but it’s not the same. They find themselves weeping as they put gifts under the tree, but this year there won’t be any gifts for Mom. Or they hold up the “Baby’s First Christmas” dress that was supposed to go on their little girl, and their hearts are shattered.

Even if we aren’t grieving a loved one, and even if we typically love the holidays, many people often end up feeling disappointed. Disappointed that their house doesn’t look better for guests; disappointed that the whole family couldn’t get together; disappointed they didn’t have the money to buy everyone gifts; disappointed that they thought this would be the year no one would get into an ugly fight.

The holidays can be really hard.

It’s important to remember this as we go through this season—and show each other grace. If someone seems down, ask her if she wants to talk about it. She might really need a friend. If someone doesn’t want to participate in a holiday activity, don’t be so quick to label him as Scrooge; he might be in a lot of pain. If someone is grieving a loved one, let her know you are thinking about her, and if possible, find a way to honor her loved one.

Let’s be sensitive to what others may be going through, and intentional in being there for them.

Also, if this holiday season is a hard one for you, give some grace to yourself. You don’t have to do all the holiday things. If you need to get away and go to Mexico instead of hosting your annual Christmas party, do it. There is always next year. If you need to sit out the caroling, the Christmas card, the decorating, the volunteering, that’s OK. Take care of you.

There can be so many pressures and expectations for the holidays, but there truly doesn’t need to be. Christmas is about Jesus, and I can promise you He is OK with you simply focusing on Him and sitting the rest out.

I hope and pray you will be able to find peace and comfort during this season, and that a different part of the year will be the most wonderful time for you.  

You may also want to read:

When the Holidays are Hard

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day—When The Holidays Hurt

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Kelli Bachara

Kelli is a mental health therapist, momma to two (one currently cooking in the womb), and wife to an amazing man with a cool name, Rocco. Kelli loves 90s pop rock, Hallmark Christmas movies, her dog Winnie, and Jesus (in reverse order).