When Christmas Makes You Sad

Walking around the mall, looking at all the Christmas decorations and hearing familiar tunes, causes us to feel merry and bright. Right?

Not always.
As a matter of a fact seasonal depression is very common. The Mayo offers emotional guidance here 

But why?
Why does a season that’s specifically designed to make us happy, bubbly and cheerful produce sadness?

I’m not a physiatrist, but I’ll share the reasons that Christmas has sometimes caused sadness for me, my friends, or clients that I have life coached. That way you’ll know some of the most common reasons, and that it’s normal.

1. Trauma/Loss: Christmas 1984 was by far the worst season of my 63 years on earth. That was the year of my divorce. Darkness surrounded me, and I felt as though my life was over. It’s normal to feel sad when a situation of this magnitude has invaded our lives. This includes death, or loss of a loved one.

2. Illness: A new diagnosis or a health change can cause discouragement. During the holidays it may be worse. This year I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. And there is a somber tone that can take over if I’m not careful.

3. Life Change: As much as I loved our move in 1997 from New York to Florida, the holidays have never been the same for me. Santa and palm trees—No! Something just never felt right about that.

4. Moving: Being away from loved ones during the holidays, even if you enjoy where you are living, can stir sadness. Seeing pictures of the family tree or a child that is laughing can trigger sorrow. No one warned me that moving away from my hometown would produce such loneliness, especially during the holidays.

5. The Circle Changes: There are people that I thought would be in my life forever. Until they weren’t. It wasn’t death that took them, but busyness. And I’m sure I’ve been the culprit of the same departure for others. I try very hard to stay connected, but sometimes people are in your life for a season. The holidays can be difficult if there are great memories associated with people who are no longer in your life.

6. Childhood: If your childhood Christmases were filled with chaos, sadness, a broken home, alcoholism, violence, or unpleasant memories it’s likely some of those thoughts will stir sadness. At 8 years old, just before Christmas, my parents split up. I don’t remember any of the holiday, but I do recall finding hidden gifts just prior to leaving. It’s a profound memory.

7. Stress in the Home: If your home life or marriage is tense, or if you are a single parent or in a stepfamily, it’s very likely that the holidays will induce more madness. Taking control of the things you CAN control, letting go of the ones you can’t, is key.

8. Singleness: If you are single and you wish you weren’t single, Christmas can be torture. All the romantic jewelry commercials, kids frolicking, and couples kissing around candlelit Christmas decorations, can be a relentless reminder that you are not in a relationship. That can morph into, “I’ll always be alone.” Trust me, I’ve been there.

9. Loneliness: Do you feel alone even when surrounded by people? It can mean there is something tormenting you deep inside. It may take time, a professional, prayer, or soul searching to unveil what’s wrong. Please don’t ignore it. Find out why. Start with a trusted friend and be honest.

10. Childlessness: Christmas is for kids, right? What if you don’t have any? Not everyone wants children, but even those who chose to be childless can become discouraged about not having little feet around the tree.

11. Family: Let’s be honest, not everyone has a nice, easy-going family. And when they ALL gather into one room, usually with a glass of wine in hand, it can get ugly. If your issue is with in-laws or extended family, its wise to have a discussion with your spouse and include a unified battle/escape plan before the day arrives.

12. Purposeless: Being lonely and having no sense of purpose are two different emotions. Let me state this clearly, God HAS a purpose for you. And if you don’t know what that is yet, He’s MORE than willing to help you find it. You may have heard the phrase, “Wise men still seek Him.” It’s true. If you need a resource this one the Purpose Driven Life is great.

If your sadness is severe, or you have thoughts of suicide, please don’t wait to contact someone. Here is help:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

I have experienced most of the things on this list during at least one Christmas. I didn’t learn how to take hold of those emotions until I was in my late 20’s. Before that I tried to anesthetize the pain with alcohol, which is a depressant and made my condition worse.

I finally discovered the gift and blessing of going to a nativity scene and picking up the baby from the manger. If you have one, go right now and hold Him in your hand. If you don’t have one here is a picture.

God loves you so much that He came for YOU! How amazing is THAT?

Maybe you don’t believe in Him? He understands. It’s hard. But even the faith to believe in Him, comes from Him.

Hold that baby in your hands, or mind, and pray this prayer. “I’m lost, I’m lonely and I’m sad. I need help. God, I don’t even know if I believe you exist. But, Jesus, if you are who you SAY you are, I want to know you. ALL of you. Not religion. Not a fictitious story. I want to know if Jesus is real. I want to know if He IS the Savior He claims to be.”

And I promise you, dear friend, if you pray that prayer sincerely, and you truly want truth, He will show Himself in a personal way that you will understand.

And then you can lay down all those things on this list and let go of them.

Look UP!

Copyright © 2018 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on relationships, stepfamilies, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, 101 Tips for The Smart Stepmom, The Smart Stepmom, co-authored with Ron Deal and Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul. Laura is a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series. She has spoken at the Billy Graham Training Center and has been featured on Focus on the Family. Laura and her pastor husband of thirty-three years live in Cumming, Ga. She can be found at www.TheSmartStepmom.com