Waking before dawn, sneaking into your siblings’ room to whisper excitedly about what special treasures you might soon find hidden downstairs.
Snuggling on the couch with a full belly, surrounded by the comforting sound of loved ones’ laughter.
Wine glasses clinking.
Wishing time would pass just a little more slowly, so you could take it all in, relish it, savour it.
Holidays come and go quickly, as all special occasions seem to. But for some, this coming and going can’t happen fast enough.
Waking before dawn, your stomach sinking with dread as you remember the day ahead will be filled with forced smiles, the hiding of shaking hands, and drinks taken in secret.
Clutching your blankets, breathing deep to hold back the nausea, as you long for the comfort of your lost loved one’s laughter.
Wine glass refilling.
Wishing time could just skip over this day, so you wouldn’t have to put on an act, so you could avoid the guilt, escape the pain.
Holidays come and go quickly, as all special occasions seem to. But there are people out there who would rather the holidays didn’t come at all.
Perhaps it’s because they grieve a great loss which only gets highlighted when the holidays arrive. But they endure it with a smile so they don’t make anyone else uncomfortable.
Perhaps they suffer anxiety in silence and feel overwhelmed and exhausted by pretending they’re okay throughout the flurry of family activity.
Perhaps they suffer depression, and attend holiday events out of obligation. Expectations to enjoy and be happy force their face into a smile, but inside their feelings of guilt and self loathing only grow.
Whatever the reason, wouldn’t it be nice if those who are unhappy come holiday time didn’t have to pretend?
Of course we have the best of intentions when we expect and encourage full, enthusiastic participation in holiday events, when we wish everyone a “Merry Christmas”, we certainly don’t mean to make anyone feel bad.
We just need a little more awareness.
We just need a little more acceptance.
We just need a little more openness and honesty.
Although we’ve made progress, our society still feels rather uncomfortable being open about things that aren’t sunshine and roses, and this is especially true at holiday time. And what do we do when we’re uncomfortable? We judge, we avoid, we ignore. This makes things much harder than they have to be for people who are grieving or suffering mental illness.
Pretending is exhausting. Pretending is lonely. Pretending makes you feel ashamed of your reality.
Let’s take the pressure off holiday happiness.
Let’s ask honest questions about how loved ones are feeling.
Let’s extend invitations that are truly optional, and come with alternative plans for later.
Let’s acknowledge our loved ones’ struggles with respect and empathy.
Although we can’t make things all better, we sure can make the holidays easier by being real. Not everyone loves holidays. And that is okay.
Thank you for reading.
Be Brave, and Talk