December is a jolly month, isn't it? Christmas carols playing in every store, time off from work to spend with family and friends, holiday traditions like decorating the Christmas tree or lighting the Hanukkah candles.
While the holidays can be a heartwarming and peaceful time, it can also trigger sadness, loneliness and grief. The days are short, with the least amount of sunshine hours in the year. While suicide rates don't actually spike around Christmas - that's in fact a myth - it can still be an isolating and sad time for many.
If you've gone through a divorce, a loss, or a rupture in a close relationship, the holidays can be especially painful. It's a landmark, an unwelcome reminder that you're doing life without this person.
When you look on social media and see everyone grinning in matching pajamas by the Christmas tree, it can seem like you're the only one who's feeling the blues.
First of all, let's remember that social media is NOT reality. You know that picture-perfect family by the tree? I'm pretty sure their real life is not as polished as their Christmas card, so let's keep that in mind.
Perhaps it's your first holiday season after a loved one's passing, or the fifth, or the tenth. Something about marking this specific time of year can often remind us of beautiful moments gone by, and deepen those feelings of loss.
Maybe it's your first Christmas after a divorce, or the first time you know your ex is with their new spouse. Maybe the kids are at your ex's house, when you wish they were snuggled up on the couch with you.
The most important advice for dealing with sadness will always be the same. Don't resist it. Accept that this year, the holidays may kind of suck. Sometimes the pressure for things to be great causes more stress than the actual stress itself.
Comparing your holiday season with fond memories from the past or fairy tales you see on television will only lead to disappointment. So, if the holidays can't be what you wish they were, how can you reframe it and still make it special, or at least fun?
Re-watch a corny romcom with a glass of your favorite merlot and a big bowl of popcorn? Enjoy a bubble bath and climb into bed with that juicy thriller novel you've been dying to finish? Go on meetup.com and find events in your area? Maybe even find a support group of people going through something similar?
Maybe you can find a way to honor the pain and sadness you feel. Do some type of ritual to remember a loved one who has passed. If you've recently gone through a divorce, now is the perfect to invite your girlfriends over and start a new tradition. It will not take the pain away, but perhaps it will soften the edges.
However you spend the holidays this year, just remember it's only a short period of time, hang in there and know that you're loved!