It’s the most wonderful time of the year—until it isn’t.
And maybe Christmas has never been your “thing.” Maybe you never celebrated it growing up, or maybe you did but the memories attached are mostly negative. Even worse, maybe you really loved Christmas but something else has come along and robbed this holiday of all its sparkle.
For me as an adult, Christmas was every bit as magical as it was when I was a child. I have a huge family on my dad’s side. There are 6 families and 14 grandkids. I’m the oldest, and because my family is super close, I basically got to grow up alongside all of them. It’s truly like having bonus siblings that just live in different houses.
One of my favorite things about this holiday was spending half of Christmas Day with my loud, wild, hilarious, amazing cousins. And then 2017 happened.
Stefan was the second oldest and just a year younger than me. And while he may have left the war overseas, the war never really left him. He took his life in the summer of 2017 and we’ve never been the same.
There would be no gathering, it was decided. His family (and maybe all of us) needed to keep things intimate that year. And in the days leading up to December 25th, I didn’t feel magical, or jolly, or sparkly. I wasn’t hopeful and I found little joy in carols and movies and gifts.
And I found myself haunted like Ebenezer, but not by a trio of well-meaning ghosts. Instead, the relentless grief came in waves—and it kept on for three more years. The holidays were no longer holly nor jolly; instead they became a time of gloom and despair.
The following year, my Grandmama (and favorite human on the planet) received her cancer diagnosis. The Christmases after that, she was in varying stages of slipping away from us, until dying on January 1, 2020.
It’s hard to put into words the depth of despair I felt during each holiday season, especially last year. The unfettered joy around me just made my sorrow more obvious, my sadness more painful. The holidays were one big reminder of everything I had lost.
And I’m not the only one.
Many of us find ourselves white-knuckling it through this time of year, for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’re grieving, too. Maybe it’s your family (or lack thereof).
- Maybe you’ve failed at something.
- Maybe you’re struggling with addiction.
- Maybe it’s your finances.
- Maybe it’s the state of the world.
- Maybe it’s your brain, and the chemicals aren’t balanced.
- Maybe it all feels like so much, too much.
There are a million reasons why this time of year is brutal. And maybe there are a million reasons why you don’t want to stick around for another season of this.
But there are reasons why you should stay, too.
- Because we still need you—yes, you specifically.
- Because someone out there loves you.
- Because even though the night is lonely and cold and full of ghosts, the sun ALWAYS comes back up again.
- Because, as my Granmama always said, “Well darling, this too shall pass,” and she was never wrong.
And because, despite the darkness where you find yourself now, there are still lanterns here to light your way.
Just because you are struggling now doesn’t mean you have failed. Pick up a lantern and stay until morning.
I’m certainly glad I did.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support via phone or chat for people in distress, resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. Includes information on finding your local crisis center.