Disconnected from Holiday Joy
By Lynn M. Acquafondata

Behind all the outward joy and celebration of the approaching holidays is a shadow world of people struggling with major life losses who dread the season.

The festivities of Christmas and New Year’s ring hollow when a loved one is no longer there or when life burdens weigh you down.

Sometimes you are faced with seemingly impossible choices. The urge to go under the covers and come out sometime in January may be strong, but isolating and avoiding will only make things worse. At the same time, pretending to be happy when you feel empty, lonely and sad can lead to an overwhelming sense of disconnection.

What can you do if you are facing holidays with a deep sense of loss?

How can you help your family or close friend who is struggling this holiday season?

First be aware that some of the reasons people have difficulty at holiday time seem obvious, other reasons are hidden and might be harder to understand.

Holidays can be challenging after:

  • The recent death of a loved one.
  • A recent divorce or a significant break-up
  • A serious illness of self or a close family or friend
  • Job Loss

They can also be challenging:

  • Years after the loved one’s death, especially when family and friend believe it is time for you to move on.
  • Years after a divorce, because the mood and activities of the season have been permanently altered.
  • In the midst of depression and other mental struggles whether it is your own illness or a close family member’s. Often others don’t understand.
  • When you or a close family member is dependent on drugs or alcohol. Holidays can be conflictual, unpredictable, lonely or even volatile.
  • When family members don’t talk to each other anymore.
  • When family members get together but argue and fight the whole time.

How to cope if you are struggling this holiday season:  

  • Acknowledge what makes the holidays difficult, don’t pretend (even to self) that everything is fine
  • Plan ahead for difficult days. Is it best to be alone? With others? Or a combination? How can you make that happen?
  • Set a time and place to grieve.
  • Attend a grief group or another kind of support groups such as Al-Anon, AA, or a divorce support.
  • Schedule a counseling session.

You can help your loved ones get through the season by:

  • Listening without giving advice. Just listen.
  • Adjusting your expectations and being willing to bend traditions.
  • Giving the person time alone if they need it.
  • Reaching out to call or visit the person even if they aren’t able to give anything back.
  • Understanding that fake it till you make it does NOT work for serious depression and grief.
  • Encouraging your loved one to reach out for support.
  • Driving your loved one to a counseling session or a support group or helping them make the first phone call.

    The next grief group at Crossbridge Counseling will meet Thursday Dec. 20th at 4 p.m. Advance sign-up is required. This group is for anyone who is struggling with the death of a loved one whether the death took place recently or years ago.
    Crossbridge Counseling also offers a pet loss support group.

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