There are many holidays throughout the year that involve family, cheer, goodwill, and celebrations. But for many people, these holidays can be a time of increased despair, loneliness, and pain. While the happy become happier, many of us in the mental health profession see the sad become sadder.
What is it about these times of year that causes people to become sad when surrounded by the joy of a celebration? Holidays represent, for most people, times when families and friends get together, share good meals, and give and receive presents. They can also be times of resolutions and new beginnings.
For some, the loss of a family member or the breakup of a relationship can intensify feelings of loss and sadness during the holidays. It can become even more devastating for a person if a new relationship has not been formed or if that person has not sufficiently healed from his or her loss. Family traditions also add to this sadness, as one longs for the comfort and nostalgia of the past.
To help yourself during this time of year, there are a few things that can turn your despair into delight. First, plan ahead. As hard as that might be when you are feeling down, it will be important to be sure you have some type of human connection planned on certain “sadness provoking” days. If you usually went to a relative’s house for a celebration, maybe this is the year to invite a few friends or family members to your house instead.
Surround yourself with people who love you and care about you. This is very important and could even include neighbors and new friends. Sometimes other people are lonely during the holidays, and an invitation would be so very welcome and appreciated.
Start a new tradition! Family traditions may be the key to helping a person heal during difficult times. Traditions look different for many families. It could be that you had champagne at midnight on Christmas Eve, or mom made special holiday cookies, or Uncle Jack wore a funny holiday sweater. Choose a special recipe to make every year, use special china to set your table, or write a thankful speech to say before your holiday meal. You could even use a family recipe or family heirloom that was passed down from a great aunt or a parent. This memory may provide you with great comfort and can make you feel that you are celebrating and honoring his or her memory.
When you surround yourself with love, make plans with others, and begin to take control by creating new traditions, you will feel empowered and realize that you are moving forward. You are a loving, beautiful person who can and should enjoy life. It is normal to have moments when you feel sad or lonely, and this is part of the healing process. For some people, however, the feeling of sadness may be more intense, stay for longer periods of time, and interfere with daily life. When this occurs, it is recommended that you reach out for the support of a professional therapist.
So, as the holidays approach, plan new ways to connect with others, surround yourself with people who love you, and begin to think of new traditions. You have the power to create magical moments so that you can turn your despair to delight!
Editor’s Note: Some suggestions for how you can take Dr. Hershey’s advice on connecting with others include:
Finding resources in your area via the Christoper Reeve Foundation website. You can enter your zip code at bottom of page and discover groups and activities that you can learn more about and follow for scheduled events.
Meet new people by area and interest on Meetup.com. They have a calendar and you can see events posted by groups that you can join and attend. While these events are not designed to be accessible, you can always ask the organizer if accommodations can be provided or just inform them you will be attending and use a wheelchair or mobility device so they can make any adjustments necessary (like sitting at low tables instead of high tops).
- Despair or Delight During the Holidays - December 16, 2016
- Learning to Find your Authentic Self Vs. your “False Self” - February 14, 2016
- How to Improve Your Life: Why you May Want to Consider Seeing a Therapist - December 12, 2015
- Unresolved Anger: How constructive expression has physical and psychological benefits - September 3, 2015