When The Holidays Aren't So Jolly

December has made its brutally cold return. There are fake, lit up trees in store windows and icicle lights hanging from houses. If you weren’t aware, the holidays are almost here, or so I’m told. Besides the impending finals, there seems to be cheer in the air. There are wreaths on doors and "All I Want For Christmas Is You" on the radio. Whatever you celebrate and however you do so, it’s coming up sooner than we think. Social media makes it seem as though everybody thrives during this chaotically joyful time, but what happens when the holidays are a time of dread?

The holidays bring about extra pressure for perfection and that Hallmark movie kind of love. This can lead to a more intense feeling of loneliness. Also, as winter moves its way into our lives, seasonal depression strikes many along with it. Seasonal depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, “is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year” (Mayo Clinic). This type of depression, even if you enjoy the holiday season, is genuinely crippling. Despite joyfulness, there is a looming sense of sadness regardless. With this comes frustration from family members, even those who are aware of the situation, because they cannot begin to understand why their loved one feels the way they do around such a happy time. The seasonal affective disorder makes it immensely difficult to enjoy moments with loved ones, and the holidays in general. 

For some, the family is what makes the holidays a difficult time. Not every family is a happy family like in the movies, and the joy of a holiday rarely improves the situation. Family induced stressed when going home for the holidays has the ability to really kill the holiday spirit for anybody. Whether the parents are fighting, the kids are fighting, or all of the above, the holidays become more of an emotional burden than a time for merriness. Additionally, there is an abundance of people who aren’t accepted by their families for their identities. Some people cannot go home to their families in order to remain safe. Others who do go home may have to endure the questions, the taunting, or even the verbal abuse of family members. There is no joy in not being accepted by the people who are supposed to love you more than anybody in this world. 

Grief does not take a Christmas break. For those who have lost a loved one this year, or even before this year, they may still be handling this heart-wrenching loss. Grieving looks different for everybody. Some people wish to talk to their friends about it, some people prefer to mull through emotions and thoughts on their own. Some people feel anger more than sadness, and vice versa. Grief is a tricky part of life, one that doesn’t ease up simply due to a holiday season. Dealing with the loss of a loved one during a time that is light-hearted for everyone around you can make the suffering much more difficult. 

The moral of the story, as it is for the rest of the year as well, is that you don't know what people are going through. Simply because the holiday season is culturally a happy-go-lucky tim does not mean that everybody is in the holiday spirit. Be gentle with yourself, and be gentle with those around you in your life this holiday season. 

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