When Grief Looms Over Your Holiday Happiness

By Susan David

Happy holidays! ’Tis the season to be jolly! It’s the most wonderful time of the year! 

No month insists on its own cheerfulness quite like the the one we’re in. And while the confluence of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the New Year can certainly make for a festive season, it doesn’t always live up to its billing. In fact, the pressure toward merriment can wind up making us feel sadder rather than happier.

This is especially true if you’re working through grief. Your heartache can feel all the more acute when compared to the joy in the air, and the season’s familial focus is bound to stir up memories of time spent with now-departed loved ones. As you navigate the next two weeks, try to remember a couple things.

Despite the smiles and Santa hats, not everyone around you is as happy as they seem. Many of us have developed techniques for masking our difficult emotions. Your co-workers seem exuberant, but they are likely dealing with their own losses and anxieties. You’re not as alone as you may feel.

Pretending to be happier than you are is a losing proposition, and pushing yourself to be more “genuinely” happy is self-defeating.

Our emotions are data points. What we feel is neither good nor bad, it just is. Fighting against our emotional responses robs us of the opportunity to productively process them. Besides, outward expressions of sadness signal to others that we could use some help. Don’t hide behind a veil of false cheer. Give those close to you the opportunity to support you. You may be surprised at how well they are able to help you through your season of grief.

The holidays may push us outward to families and feasts, but this season can also be a great time to look inward. Give yourself the gift of being with your emotions, whatever they may be. How you feel is how you feel. Let these feelings pass through you, and remember that they do not last forever.

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