Image by rojam via Flickr
I write this post for those of you experiencing things less than "merry and bright" this holiday season. Several people I know are dealing with the death of or serious medical news about a loved one right now. Which reminds us all that life doesn't stop just because it is the holidays.
I speak from experience on this topic: tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of the death of my Dad from complications of Alzheimer's disease. The Christmas that followed three days later felt surreal. I didn't feel happy or joyous. In fact, the whole time during Christmas dinner I suppressed the urge to start crying. My mood fit with the dark, cold and rainy days of January better than the upbeat and jolly holiday season.
The next year I felt conflicted during the holidays. As with any anniversary, I remember my Dad's final days as December 22nd approached. Those images sharply contrasted with every upbeat message broadcasted in Christmas carols and TV specials. It made the process of remembering my loss feel quite out of place with everyone else's presumed state of mind. It left me feeling alone and unsupported in my grief.
People just aren't focused on the sad aspects of life during the holidays.
Then I remembered a line from Lucy in the TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas:
Look, Charlie, let's face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know.
This quote spoke to how I felt: like Santa Claus brainwashed the whole world and now sugarplums, presents and big holiday feast completely and totally took over everyone's minds. Everyone acts like life suddenly stops during the holidays. The world goes into some kind of fantasy mode filled only with good cheer, mistletoe, eggnog and a light sprinkling of snow. Pain and suffering magically disappear with the drop of a few coins into a Salvation Army bucket or the donation of a toy or canned food into a collection bin.
Yes, I learned first hand that it is difficult to deal with the hard things in life during the holidays. The contrast between real life and the fantasy of Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy! is at its greatest now. It definitely makes dealing with pain, loss and grief even more difficult. You may not feel the way everyone else does right now, but that doesn't mean there is something wrong with you. Just know that you are not alone and it's O.K. not to feel happy.
That said, I want to point out that in a myriad of Christmas songs, I found that Elvis quite surprisingly understood how I felt. I rediscovered the song Blue Christmas in 2004 and found it especially comforting when I was dealing with my Dad's death. Perhaps it can help you get through your difficult holiday time too.