Why do some people find themselves more depressed around the holidays? This holiday season has lots of socially constructed meaning to it. Ultimately, the image we have in our heads is a close and loving family gathered together, giving to one another and enjoying each other’s company. Well, we all know that many people do not have that in their lives, maybe never had that in their lives. So this holiday season can be a reminder of a need not met in one’s life. It can be a reminder that one is estranged from their family, or it can be a reminder of family members having passed on.
Anniversaries of loved ones dying and holidays with socially constructed meaning around family, can make the deaths in one’s life feel as though they are happening all over again. I’m not sure we understand the power that these “times” of the year can have on our whole person. It can bring normal feelings of grief back up or it can help nudge someone along the grieving process they have tried to ignore. This can make a time of year like Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or any other, difficult to get through.
This time of year could be impacting some of you with issues around sleep (more or less), appetite (more or less), lack of motivation, increased sadness (crying), or overall listlessness. A lot of times, but not all the time, we experience these symptoms because we are fighting and ignoring our feelings. The pain that is coming up around lost loved ones, a family never had, or a family disconnected, we believe is too much for us to handle. We don’t want to face the pain, the discomfort, or our reality. Some of you might drink more through the holidays, eat more, sleep more, or escape in other ways. Some might withdraw and not want to be around others. This is not an easy time and those who are struggling during the holidays are just trying to do the best they can. But I would like to encourage you to do some new or different things in order to help salve some of these wounds.
Some of you might need to enter counselling of some kind to deal with the intense feelings that become overwhelming. There is nothing wrong with having difficulty getting through the holidays. There is nothing wrong with needing help to overcome immense grief and loss. There is nothing wrong with seeking assistance to process how to move forward with your family. Finally having someone to talk to about your pain and grief can be extremely freeing and something you will be so thankful you did.
What I would like to encourage you to do over this difficult time is balance three things: taking really good care of yourself, seeking some kind of support (friends, counselors, church, synagogue, etc) and most important of the three, face your feelings. As I said earlier, we experience depressive symptoms a lot of the time due to ignoring our own feelings, needs, and values. If you were supporting a friend would you tell them to shut up, go away, stop crying, get over it, or suck it up? Why do you tell yourself that? What’s that about? What’s wrong with sadness? Yes, it hurts, but it does not hurt near as much as the pain you go through to avoid the real pain. It is the pain about the pain that keeps people stuck. But this is also why I want you to seek support and to also treat yourself well, give yourself breaks, find something that makes you happy, even if it has nothing to do with the holidays. But when you all of a sudden are thinking about a lost loved one or a family issue bringing you pain, allow that pain to come through. IT IS SAD! There’s no fighting the fact that you are sad, so instead of fighting it, go with it and allow the natural processes of grieving to move about within you. It is the only thing that will help with the pain and allow some of your symptoms to go away. You might feel like it will never stop if you allow it to come through but that just isn’t the case – besides, you have gotten pretty skilled at shutting it down so if it gets overwhelming, just shut it down for the time being. Again, some sort of professional support might be needed if you feel too overwhelmed and without support.
You do not have to have someone die in your life to experience grief and loss. Some people might be experiencing their first holiday season separated from a spouse and children. This is a huge loss with lots of feelings attached. Some people might be experiencing the anniversary or reminder of a significant accident that has left them or a loved one impaired in some way. Some people might be experiencing a reconnected family, or a life that has finally come together for them, illuminating the pain they have been in for years. Don’t fight that relief of pain either. Sometimes we need to experience the relief to realize the pain we were fighting.
Whatever is going on inside of you needs to have a voice, an expression, a release, in order for you to live as a healthy person/organism. For some of you, you will find a certain sweetness to finally feeling your pain that will enable you to find some peace and joy during this difficult time. For others, those feelings might come in time. Please listen to yourself over this holiday season.
Take care of yourself. Seek support. Face and feel your feelings.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.