Help! I Feel Sad During the Holidays 

While the holiday season is often a time for celebration and family gatherings, for many the holiday season is a time of sadness and despair. Instead of finding joy in shopping and buying gifts for special loved ones, it can be a time of isolation. Instead of spending time with family and friends, it may be a time of grief and loss. 

I can remember for years how I struggled during the holidays because I felt intense grief over the loss of my mother, father, younger brother and other significant loved ones. Instead of feeling thankful and festive during the winter holidays, I felt emotionally scarred and deep sadness. These feelings were intensified when my husband’s family members stopped by or when commercials on television showed large family gatherings. 

The Thanksgiving that changed everything  

Then one Thanksgiving, a major shift in my thinking took place. Instead of sitting across the table and peering at my husband’s family with envy, I recognized that his family had become my family and that I had created a beautiful family of my own with my husband and two children. I realized at that moment that I had been so focused on the family that I didn’t have that I was not appreciating the family that I had across the table and right next to me. I thought about the many holidays that I had wasted – yes, wasted – focusing on what I did not have instead of celebrating what I had been given and honoring loss loved ones by celebrating life. 

Celebrating life and showing love and appreciation for others  

I realized at that moment that the holiday season is not about the family or friends that you don’t have, it is about celebrating life and making memories with those that you do have and those that you choose to bring into your life. 

Take time to grieve and find ways to heal 

I am in no way minimizing the importance of taking time to grieve. In fact, as a therapist I have helped my clients unapologetically and freely experience feelings of grief and loss, and for some it has been the first time in their lives. However, I have learned that in order to heal, you have to find ways to show your love and appreciation for those people that are in your life and honor your lost loved ones by living. 

Ways to show love and appreciation for others  

  • Show your special loved ones how much they mean to you and do it on purpose. 
  • It is so easy to take people that are always around you for granted. As Toni Morrison said, “Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When someone you love walks into a room, let your face light up and say that you’re glad to see them.” And while they are there, say “I love you.” 
  • Connect with old friends or family members that you have not spoken to in a while. 
  • Sometimes in the busyness of our lives, we forget to reach out to people that are significant in our lives because we don’t often see or talk to them. Commit to connection by calling or visiting an old friend or family member on a regular basis. 
  • Reach out to charities or organizations that serve the underserved and help them bring joy to someone’s life. 
  • Charities and non-profit organizations typically have already identified people that are in need. Contact these amazing organizations and ask how you can bring joy to someone that may be feeling lonely this holiday season. 

Honor those that have died by living 

  • Moving on with your life does not dishonor your special loved one’s death. 
  • When someone has lost a special loved one and is moving out of a state of grief, experiences of healing and happiness often lead to guilt. It is not uncommon for survivors to “feel guilty” for feeling hopeful and happy. Honor your lost loved ones by living and use your memories of them as motivation to move forward. 
  • Find positive ways to celebrate the lives of lost loved ones. 
  • Try to replace feelings of sadness by documenting special events, funny experiences, or simple memories in a memory box or journal. 
  • Plan an outing or day trip with a friend, family member or even a co-worker on a day that you would normally be a sad day of remembrance. Make it a day to celebrate your special loved one’s life. 
  • Live life intentionally and fully knowing that your lost loved one or loved ones would want you to live well be truly happy. 
  • Losing a loved one makes us realize more than anything that life is short and tomorrow is not guaranteed. Undoubtedly, loved ones that have passed on would want you to live your life to its fullest. 

I hope that if you normally feel sad during the holidays, that this article may help you make this year different and that you can find healing and happiness this holiday season! 

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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