It’s Not All Cookies and Cocoa (Holidays Can Be Hard)

It’s Christmas Eve!  We have reached a fever pitch of anticipation!  The trees are trimmed, the cookies are baked, and the gifts are all wrapped.  The turkey is thawed and ready to be stuffed.  The stockings are hung by the chimney (and if you are in the midst of the hot spell and running the air conditioning there is no chance of them being burned by the fire).  The only thing left to do is to await the arrival of the big, jolly man and his sleigh.  We are all feeling cheerful, festive, and excited!  Except if we aren’t…

Wait, what is that you say?  It’s Christmastime!  We are supposed to be filled with the joy & love of the season!  We are expected to be happy, happy, happy!  But what if that isn’t always the case?

The fact is that the holidays are not easy for some people. There are those who would prefer that the month of December quietly pass them by.  The reality is that there are people who struggle during the Christmas season, and we need to be mindful of their feelings.

I have friends who have lost loved ones within the past few weeks and months.  This is the first year they will be “celebrating” without a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, or a friend.  I know people who are caring for family members who are gravely, critically ill.  They will spend Christmas Eve spoon-feeding soup and medicine, offering sponge baths, and praying to their higher power for a pain free night for a cherished soul.

There are people who have been disappointed by those who should be closest to them. There are others who have been stressed to the breaking point by demanding, pushy family members who do not know, or do not care, when they are asking for too much. There are those who are so lonely that they would do anything to have some of those pushy people fighting for their attention.  There are some who are gasping for breath under the crushing weight of depression.

Yes, buried beneath the glow of the bright lights, silenced by the sounds of the nonstop Christmas music on the radio, you will find them if you only look.  They are the newly divorced, spending Christmas Eve alone with a freshly broken heart while their ex has the house full of kids.  They are the spouses of law enforcement and military personnel, resigned to yet another holiday making sure things are just right for the kids while trying not to wonder if their loved ones will make it home for next year’s festivities. They are the parents desperate to provide gifts not of cellphones and laptops, but merely a new doll or a toy firetruck.  They are the recently widowed, or the children who have lost a parent, gazing up to the heavens and trying to understand why.

We need to acknowledge and accept that there are people who simply prefer not to celebrate, or to do so in a low-key fashion.  We must understand that they are trying to maintain a facade of cheerfulness while inside they are coming apart.  We cannot trivialize their feelings by telling them to, “Cheer up!” or by admonishing them to, “Stop acting like a Scrooge!”

If we truly do keep Christmas in our hearts all year long then we must be sure to keep it in our hearts during the month of December.  Let us give those who are struggling the gift of our patience.  Let us bestow the present of love upon those who are suffering. Let us understand if they wish only to go to church to light a candle and reflect in solitude rather than accepting our invitation to a raucous Christmas party.  Let us be available without demand, and let us let them do what feels right for them.  Let us know that they do not wish to in any way diminish or minimize our celebrations by taking a more subdued approach to the season.

I am thankful not to be one who has lost a loved one.  I am grateful that my family and friends are healthy and happy.  I am, however, one who has had her Christmas spirit kicked around this year.  I am one of the ones who was disappointed by some while being pushed over the edge by others.   I do not cry often, but I have been reduced to tears more than once over the past few weeks, causing me to retreat and regroup.  I tell you this not to ask for any sympathy, as life presents us all with tough times.  I tell you this because it has helped me to have a greater understanding for what people do struggle with this time of year.  It has led me to a place where I get that the best some can do is to spend a quiet Christmas Eve at home, eating tacos and watching Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.  (Yes, this is our grand plan for Christmas Eve, and I am looking forward to a quiet night remembering who and what matters the most.)

Whatever holiday you celebrate, and however you choose to celebrate it, I wish for you an abundance of peace and love.  If you are one for whom this post resonates know that I hold you in a special place in my heart this year.  If you know someone for whom this post may resonate I ask that you offer them an extra dose of comfort and encouragement over the next few days.

30 thoughts on “It’s Not All Cookies and Cocoa (Holidays Can Be Hard)

  1. Once again your blog reduces me to tears. I am definitely one of those ppl you talk of.. Lost a parent and sibling and now struggling as a caregiver hoping to just get by every day without a tragedy occurring. The holidays are rough and you do your best to be happy because it’s the norm. Prayers for the millions of others like me. God has us in the palm of his hand. Thanks Karen for putting this so eloquently. Xo

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Merry Christmas Karen! I spent the holidays in a local Hospice four years ago as my sister transitioned from this life to the next. They have always been bittersweet since. Joy can be found, but it is always tinged with sadness. I hope you find moments of love this year. All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Merry Christmas to you! I have a dear friend who just lost her father, and it changes the tone of the holidays. I’ve managed to grasp a few moments here and there, but this year has been draining. I wish you much happiness in the coming year!


  3. Well said as always Karen. I know that for some Christmas is a hard time to get through and I will try and remember that amongst all the celebrations.

    Have a great Christmas, I hope you enjoyed Home Alone 2, I’m watching it this afternoon haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much for writing about the darker side of the holidays. As a therapist with a focus on homeless, foster care, and mentally ill young adults; it is something I see all too often. I am thankful that agencies gather to throw parties and collect gifts and toiletries for those in need, though I know many of them are dreading Christmas day. Therefore, for the last several years I have gifted Redbox gift cards and boxes of cereal to residential facilities and shelters so that children can escape into the world of film and sugar cereal (even if it is just for a short while). I will advise adults who are struggling to read the book 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker. You can also read an excerpt of the book here

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a tender, honest, caring, well-written post, Karen. Thank you for offering such comforting words for others and for sharing your own experiences in such a true way. This is what empathy means … to hold a light for others and to say, “I know, I’ve been there. We can just sit in quiet company. You can talk about it, or I can just hold your hand.” Bless you.


  6. Thank you for posting such a caring blog about something difficult during a time when it’s so easy to fall into the “It’s all great” trap. The holidays were difficult for me this year as the hubby and I left our cherished home in Colorado right after Thanksgiving and moved over 2000 miles cross country to a place where we knew no one. But my realistic self was determined to make the best of it – and even started a blog of my own to keep in touch with friends and hopefully make some new ones. You can check it out here: The other holiday that’s often been difficult for me is New Years and one of my posts is about my new New Year’s tradition of creating the new year at dawn. Have a great year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for visiting! Transitions like a big move can be so emotion-packed and stressful. We have no know that it is okay and perfectly acceptable to feel whatever it is we are feeling.
      I will be stopping by to visit your blog over the next few days! 🙂


  7. Reblogged this on Fill Your Own Glass and commented:

    Some things have changed since I wrote this last year, and some have not (a new post will be coming with more details). The theme remains unchanged, though- The holidays are not easy for everyone, and we need to be okay with that…

    Please feel free to share with anyone who may take comfort from knowing there are people out there who do understand.


  8. You are absolutely correct Karen. In fact a good friend of mine did lose his mom 2 days before Christmas. So hard to know what to say, definitely not “Merry Christmas”.

    You captured so many situations, each one unique in their own way. I think of yourself, if I recall your dear hubby is in law enforcement. I deeply appreciate all he does to serve and protect. I have several friends who serve in this capacity and it is not easy.

    May 2017 be a wonderful year for you and your loved ones! 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Carl! I lost my father in September. It was my first personal experience of a holiday without a close family member. It kicked up a lot of nostalgia and memories.
      Happily I did have my husband with me for a special Christmas trip to New York this year. It helped tremendously.
      Wishing you a wonderful and wondrous 2017!

      Liked by 1 person

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